Week in Brief – December 10-16, 2017

12/18/2017 . By TIMEP

Summary

This is the last scheduled weekly brief for 2017. Briefs will resume in 2018.

  • The House of Representatives is in recess until December 17. Only committees and the cabinet will discuss or vote on legislation until the full legislature reconvenes.
  • An abnormally large number of parliamentary delegations were traveling domestically and internationally this week. Three groups conducted official business outside of Cairo, including the trip to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, while smaller delegations met with a variety of foreign dignitaries in the House of Representatives.

Notable Developments

Parliamentary delegation visits European Parliament

The delegation to the European Parliament finished their four-day trip after meeting with individuals including the Egyptian ambassador in Paris, European Parliament member Anders Primdahl Vistisen of the Danish People’s Party, and members of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Delegation for Relations with the Mashreq Countries. Egyptian media reported that their interactions focused on discussions of terrorism, illegal migration, the situation in Libya, the decision of the United States to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam, and the state of human rights in Egypt. The meetings were also meant to set up visits by another, higher-level parliamentary delegation to the European Parliament early next year.

Representatives React to the Signing of Dabaa nuclear plant contracts:

After Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi to witness the signing of contracts for the construction and financing of a 4,800 megawatt nuclear power plant in Egypt, the majority of representatives publicly commended the development. Representatives Alaa Abed, Osama Shersher, Muhammad Abdel Ghani, and Amer Watani, along with several party leaders, all spoke of Egypt’s increased prominence and energy security thanks to Sisi’s efforts to finalize the plan. Talaat al-Suweidi, chairman of the Energy Committee, also said parliament is keen to review the contracts quickly and vote to approve them.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

Parliament is in recess until December 17 and therefore no legislation was officially enacted this week.

In Session:

A delegation from the Housing Committee traveled to the Red Sea Governorate to examine national projects from the Military Engineering Corps, including housing projects, the largest desalination plant in Egypt, a sewage station, and several touristic areas of Hurghada. Delegation member Emad Saad Hamouda praised the development projects and said that Sisi must be elected to a second term so that the projects can be completed.

A delegation from the Transportation Committee traveled to New Valley governorate to examine the state of its roads and railways, which are still unfinished despite being under construction for years. Ashraf Rahim, a member of the delegation, also called for the creation of a fact-finding committee to investigate the theft of over 580 kilometers of railway track in the province.

The Human Rights Committee is reportedly preparing a report on human rights, its visits to police stations around the country, and related topics. The report will be produced in English and Arabic for foreign audiences.

The subcommittee following the 2015–2016 budget recommendations is summoning the leaders of state bodies that lost money as a result of those recommendations, including the railways, public transit, state television, and agricultural development bodies.

In News and Statements:

Since parliament was not in session, several different representatives met with various foreign delegations and dignitaries this week. The Local Administration Committee leadership met with a delegation from the Indonesian parliament. Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al, the Defense Committee leadership, and Sahar Talaat Mustafa, chairwoman of the Tourism Committee, met with a delegation from the Russian parliament’s defense committee. Abdel ‘Al later met with the speaker of the Japanese parliament. Alaa Abed, chairman of the Human Rights Committee, and Representative Margaret Azer met with the Canadian ambassador to Egypt, Jess Dutton, to discuss human rights in Egypt.

The Egyptian daily newspaper al-Masry al-Youm reported that parliament sent a letter to all representatives requesting that they not conduct interviews with foreign or domestic media outlets without permission from Abdel ‘Al. Representatives criticized this unprecedented demand, calling it a mockery of representatives’ independence and describing it as illegal under the body’s bylaws.

Ahmed Shafiq, chairman of the National Movement Party and potential presidential candidate, led a meeting at a Cairo hotel with leaders of his party to discuss whether he would run in the presidential elections.

The election for the vacant seat of deceased representative Herqel Wafqi began on Friday and is set to run through Monday. If none of the 11 candidates wins a majority of votes, then a runoff election will be held January 5–9.

The issue of abortions in Egypt made a brief entry into this week’s media debate. Aymen Aboul Alaa of the Health Affairs Committee suggested a draft Safe Abortions Law that would allow women to receive abortions in the first 120 days if they are in danger, but Hala Mustakeli of the same committee repudiated the idea that abortions could be safe or should be allowed.

In a recent interview, Muhammad al-Suweidi, chairman of the Coalition in Support of Egypt, called for a cabinet reshuffle, said that the coalition supports Sisi for president, and claimed that the draft Comprehensive Health Insurance Law will take 15 years to implement.

Omar Hamroush of the Religious Affairs Committee said that the ministers of education and higher education should mandate courses running from primary school through university on the role of the Egyptian military in the country’s history.

Looking Ahead

  • The House of Representatives is set to reconvene on December 17. They will discuss the government’s draft Electing Workers Representatives Law and five different drafts (four from representatives and one from the cabinet) of the Comprehensive Health Insurance Law. There are also reports that the government’s draft Drones Law was not officially passed, as the last Egypt Parliament Watch brief reported. A reason for this potential legislative oversight has not been given, despite the House of Representatives having finally achieved voting quorum on the day the draft was last discussed. If this is true, then the House of Representatives will likely attempt to hold its final vote on the Drones Law in the coming week.
  • At least 12 of the 25 committees are set to meet next week as well. These include the Budget, Economic Affairs, Constitutional Affairs, Defense, Foreign Affairs, African Affairs, Small and Medium Enterprises, Education, Religious Affairs, Health Affairs, Local Administration, and Human Rights Committees. Legislative efforts did not significantly diminish over the holiday season in the second session, so there is no reason to believe that these sessions and committee meetings will be any less productive than prior meetings. TIMEP will cover any developments in a briefing early in 2018.