Week in Brief – February 11, 2018 – February 17, 2018

02/21/2018 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • The House of Representatives will hold its next general session meeting on March 4, but it will not meet for any additional sessions for the duration of March to allow representatives to encourage their constituents to participate in the upcoming election. Parties and candidates are also organizing events and campaigns in support of President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi’s reelection.
  • Several representatives commented on the recent surge in military operations in Sinai both in terms of how it will impact the upcoming election and the overall terrorism situation in Egypt, showering their praises on the campaign and those participating in it.
  • The House of Representatives continued their recent anti-media rhetoric and advocated for the censoring of media outlets; Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ’Al called upon the Media Committee to expedite its passage of a media organizations law intended to regulate rights for media workers.

Presidential Election Developments

Representatives and Political Parties Continue Grassroots Campaign Efforts:

Several representatives announced that they will hold conferences throughout the country to educate their constituents on the importance of electoral participation and encourage them to reelect Sisi. These representatives, notably  Social Solidarity Committee Chairman Abdel Hadi al-Qasbi, hailed Sisi’s efforts to eradicate terrorism as well as the recently passed Martyrs Fund legislation, which stipulated payments to individuals disabled as a result of a security operation or the families of security personnel killed in combat.

In related news, some political parties pledged to continue their campaign initiatives ahead of the presidential election. Atef Nasser, parliamentary chairman of the Nation’s Future Party, stated that the party will intensify its efforts to support Sisi by holding conferences and knocking on citizens’ doors throughout the country to advocate on his behalf and inform Egyptians about the significance of voting in the election. Similarly, the Wafd Party launched a promotional campaign to convince people of the benefits of participating in the election. In its continued effort to support Sisi, the Coalition in Support of Egypt hosted a conference in Sharqia to endorse his reelection and inform citizens of his triumphs as president.

Terrorist Threat Sparks Reaction from Representatives:

The Egyptian military recently announced a major escalation in security operations in North and Central Sinai to eliminate terrorism in the region and restore order, which prompted Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State’s affiliate in the peninsula, to release a video condemning the election and claiming that electoral participation is grounds for execution. Several representatives spoke out against the terrorist organization and stated that this threat would not deter Egyptians from participating. Representatives, including Mustafa Bakri of the Constitutional Affairs Committee and Hamada al-Qisat of the Defense Committee, assured Egyptians of the hollow nature of the terrorist threat, while encouraging citizens to participate in the upcoming election as a symbol of national pride in the face of terrorism.

Notable Developments

Representatives Criticize Media Institutions:

The House of Representatives’ recent outbursts against the media continued, with several representatives criticizing the media for their apparent transgressions against the government and failing to promote the interests of the state. During a tirade Monday in general session, Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al addressed Media Committee Chairman Osama Heikal and called upon him to expedite the ratification process of the second half of the draft Media Organization Law over the media’s deliberate attempts to harm the government and spread false information. (The first half of the law was passed in late 2016 and established media governance bodies; the second half was meant to regulate media workers and organizations and establish their rights and duties.)

On a more extreme level, Representative Mustafa Bakri of the Constitutional Affairs Committee called for some television programs to be censored because of what he deemed as inappropriate and demeaning content that he believed violated societal norms in Egypt. In relatively conflicting news, Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed decried what he described as a “blackout” of culture, calling for a wider space to promote free and creative thought. Abed’s comments followed his condemnation of different nongovernmental organizations for their suspicious behavior and reportedly inaccurate claims regarding political expression in the upcoming presidential election.

Representatives Support Sinai Military Operation:

Following the first full week of the military’s recent escalation of security operations in Sinai, several representatives commended military forces for their efforts in eradicating the national terrorist threat. Mustafa Bakri of the Constitutional Affairs Committee praised security personnel for their efforts to safeguard Egyptians. He also stated that these forces have the support of the government and citizens nationwide for their tremendous sacrifices. Similarly, the Arab Affairs Committee issued a statement endorsing the military operation and offering their full-fledged support for the initiative going forward. Commenting on the terrorism situation in Egypt as a whole, Defense Committee Chairman Kamal Omar described the conflict as a full-scale war requiring collaboration among security personnel. Upon completion of the military operations in Sinai, Media Committee Chairman Osama Heikal stated that the committee will conduct a field visit to the region to assess the cultural situation in the governorate.

Chairman of the Strong Egypt Party Arrested for Brotherhood Connection:

The High State Security Prosecution arrested Strong Egypt Party Chairman Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh late Wednesday night for charges of holding open communication with the Muslim Brotherhood. Abul Fotouh openly associated with the Brotherhood from the 1970s until 2011, when he resigned from the organization and pursued an unsuccessful bid for president in the 2012 election. The Ministry of the Interior claimed that Abul Fotouh held meetings abroad with members of the Brotherhood to formulate “dubious plans.” In response to Abul Fotouh’s arrest, the Popular Socialist Alliance Party demanded his release, citing the importance of political dissidence and diverse ideas. Neither political party holds any seats in the House.

Amnesty International also called for Abul Fotouh’s release. Mustafa Bakri of the Constitutional Affairs Committee condemned the organization for its request, stating that Amnesty supports the rights of terrorists and does not understand the difference between terrorists and political advocates.

Speaker of the House Scolds Representatives:

During a general session meeting of the House on Monday, Abdel ‘Al chastised representatives for their behavior in session as well as tacking on what he claimed were unrelated amendments to the Martyrs Fund legislation. An undisclosed representative reportedly threatened to walk out of session if he was not permitted additional speaking time, which prompted Abdel ‘Al’s outrage. Abdel ‘Al accused representatives of attempting to incite chaos within the House of Representatives, while also claiming that some members sought to extort assets from the Martyrs Fund for personal benefit. Following his outburst, several representatives offered their support for Abdel ‘Al and praised him for his leadership and tolerance in working with representatives in the House.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

Parliament approved in principle amendments to the Capital Markets Law. The new amendments provide sweeping changes to the 26-year-old law, including the establishment of a new framework for issuing Islamic bonds and the expansion of the market to allow for additional public trading and futures trading.

The House of Representatives agreed in principle to an amendment to the Consumer Protection Law, which seeks to eliminate fraudulent goods in the Egyptian marketplace that do not adhere to national specifications or standards.

The Suggestions and Complaints Committee approved an amendment to the Personal Status Law submitted by Representative Samir Rashad Abu Talib. The amendment provides additional legal protections for a father seeking to gain custody of his children. Following their approval of the draft law, the committee sent the amendment to a joint committee of Religious and Constitutional Affairs for further review.

The Energy Committee passed the draft Nature Reserves Law submitted by the government. During their deliberations, the committee focused on two controversial articles that outline the ministerial role in rewarding employees for their efforts and grant the governor of a region authority to protect an at-risk natural area.

The Agriculture Committee agreed in principle to amendments to the Water Resources and Irrigation Law submitted by the government. The amendments aims to restore the sanctity of the Nile River by increasing penalties for transgressors and abusers of the river’s resources.

Representative Fayez Barakat of the Education Committee proposed the Reading Law, which is aimed at increasing the literacy rate of Egyptians.

In Session:

Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed inspected al-Saff Hospital in Giza ahead of its opening. Abed’s visit follows the national outcry after reported abuses and inhumane treatment occurred at Abbasiya Psychiatric Hospital.

The Energy Committee proposed establishing a supreme body to oversee the Nile River and the various affairs, resources, and expenses associated with it. This decision comes in light of the ongoing conflict with Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The Budget Committee reviewed the 2016-17 budget, and determined that the national debt during the fiscal year amounted to 316 billion Egyptian pounds (LE).

Arab Affairs Committee Chairman Saad al-Gamal and other members of the committee expressed concern over recent Israeli aggression in Syrian territory. The committee called on all parties involved in the conflict to seek a peaceful resolution to the violent ordeal to ensure the best interests of all citizens impacted by the strife.

Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Tariq al-Khouli was invited to travel to Japan as part of a visit of foreign affairs representatives from multiple Middle Eastern countries. The trip’s mission focused on discussing economic affairs with Japan, as well as providing an opportunity to learn about Japan’s history and culture. Khouli and other Middle Eastern officials met with various officials at the Japanese foreign ministry, where the group discussed security affairs and Japan’s role in regional politics.

Tourism Committee Chairwoman Sahar Talaat held a meeting with a delegation from Japan to discuss ways to improvee bilateral relations in tourism.

Abdel ‘Al met with the  ambassador from the United Arab Emirates to Egypt, Juma Mubarak al-Junaibi. The individuals discussed increasing parliamentary relations between the two nations.

In News and Statements:

Representative Said Shabayek of the Human Rights Committee denounced the European Parliament’s statement on the death penalty in Egypt, calling it a double standard on behalf of the Europeans to criticize Egypt for its decision to implement the death penalty during times of conflict. Shabayek asserted that the death penalty is carried out in accordance with both Islamic and international law, and he called on Europeans to stop making misleading comments about Egypt.

Representative Hisham Megdi of the Foreign Affairs Committee hailed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Cairo as an expression of Egypt’s leading role in combating terrorism in the region. He also called on the United States to adopt a more decisive counterterrorism stance in its engagements with nations combating such aggression.

Representative Muhammad Maher Hamad of the Human Rights Committee expressed his support for the amendments to the Terrorist Law recently approved by the cabinet. The law increases the punishment for individuals who harbor terrorists or assist them in their evasion of law enforcement. Hamad stated that the legislation is a positive initiative as part of Sisi’s counterterrorism strategy.

Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed rejected the idea of establishing a national council for men after some calls were made for the creation of such a council following the formation of the National Council for Women.

Looking Ahead

  • The Local Administration Committee, along with several members of the cabinet, will discuss the draft Waste Management and Services Law on February 27. The legislation aims to promote sustainability by investing in new infrastructure and resources to address cleanliness issues across the country.
  • Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan will travel to Kuwait over the weekend in advance of a conference Sunday to encourage Egyptians in the country to participate in the upcoming election.