Week in Brief – February 18, 2018 – February 24, 2018

02/26/2018 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • Wafd Party Chairman al-Sayyid al-Badawi received considerable backlash from colleagues in his party following his decision to hold internal elections four days prior to the presidential election.
  • Representatives held mixed reactions to the natural gas agreement between private companies in Israel and Egypt, citing national security and energy development concerns.
  • Several representatives responded harshly to Amnesty International for its condemnation of the Egyptian military’s possible use of cluster bombs.
  • The Media Committee ramped up its deliberations on the long-awaited Media Bodies Law in an attempt to pass along the law to the general floor of the House of Representatives in the near future.

Presidential Election Developments

Representatives Continue Condemnation of the Civil Democratic Movement:

Several members of the House of Representatives commented on individuals and initiatives that they claimed were sabotaging the upcoming presidential election. The Civil Democratic Movement, a group of political figures calling for a boycott of the election, received criticism from multiple representatives for what they deemed to be malicious intent to undermine the civic obligations of Egyptians to participate in the election. Representative Ghada Agemi of the Foreign Affairs Committee decried the movement and its members, calling for a revocation of their citizenship because their proposal is contrary to the national duty of electoral engagement. These calls came amid the continued detention of Civil Democratic Movement member and Strong Egypt Party leader Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, who faces charges of belonging to a terrorist organization. Both Abul Fotouh and his party have been added to Egypt’s list of terrorist entities (see later section).

Political Parties and Representatives on the Campaign Trail:

Political parties continued to be engaged in the upcoming presidential election by announcing their intentions to campaign on behalf of President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi. Both the Free Egyptians Party and the Conservative Party launched grassroots efforts in various governorates nationwide promoting Sisi’s reelection bid. The Coalition in Support of Egypt continued holding conferences in Egypt advocating for Sisi’s campaign, with stops in Beni Suef and Luxor governorates led by various representatives and members of the coalition attempting to reach out to their constituents. In similar news, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan traveled to Kuwait Sunday to encourage Egyptian expatriates there to participate in the upcoming election.

Wafd Party Internal Election Backlash:

Wafd Party Chairman al-Sayyid al-Badawi announced that the party will hold internal elections four days prior to the presidential election, despite party regulations stipulating thatinternal elections cannot be held until June and the party high council’s previous decision to postpone them. Badawi’s decision was met with harsh backlash from members of the Wafd Party, especially since Badawi intends to seek reelection. Members of the party criticized the current status of the party, claiming that they are suffering from a financial crisis due to a lack of adequate support nationwide. Some members called for a new leader from a nonbusiness background to guide the party. Constitutional Committee Chairman Bahaa Abu Shoqa demanded that Badawi step down from his position in June at the mandated time for party elections to occur. The criticism Badawi received after his announcement follows his unsuccessful presidential bid, which Wafd Party members voted against in a 41–4 vote.

Notable Developments

Representatives React to Egyptian-Israeli Natural Gas Agreement:

On February 19, Egypt-based Dolphinus Holdings reached an agreement with Noble Energy and Delek Drilling to import $15 billion worth of natural gas from Israel. Although the contract was made between private companies, the decision has been lauded as a major step forward for the two nations, despite historical conflicts and recent disputes over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Several representatives commented on a variety of issues stemming from this agreement, including energy developments in Egypt and bilateral relations with Israel. Representative Ayman Abdullah of the Energy Committee praised the agreement as indicative of Sisi’s leadership in transforming the natural gas industry in the country. Abdullah’s colleague in the Energy Committee al-Sayyid Hegazi hailed the contract as a major economic blow to Turkey, which he claimed sought to dominate the industry in the region.

Some representatives, notably Defense Committee Chairman Kemal Omar, spoke about the agreement from a security perspective, stating that this decision will not raise security concerns in Egypt. Omar asserted that this agreement was made to promote economic development, which accounts for the best interest of Egyptians. Other representatives reacted tepidly to the decision, as both Muhammad Badrawi of the Economic Affairs Committee and Abdel Hamid Kemal of the Local Administration Committee submitted requests to Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al demanding the presence of the minister of petroleum to discuss the contract. The agreement will reportedly not require parliamentary approval, but it will require executive approval to proceed.

Representatives Decry Amnesty International Statement:

Amnesty International recently condemned any potential use of cluster bombs in Egypt following the release of a video showing military forces loading the weapon for presumed use against enemy combatants in the ongoing Operation Sinai 2018. Several representatives responded by labeling Amnesty as an organization that defends terrorists while serving as a voice for enemies of the Egyptian state. Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed swiftly rejected Amnesty’s statement, claiming that the group was founded by anti-Arab zealots that promote the political agendas of Qatar and Turkey in an attempt to harm the Egyptian state. Abed added that the government is considering appealing to the United Nations to take action based on what Egypt deems to be unprofessional and inappropriate behavior on behalf of Amnesty. Other representatives echoed similar sentiments, claiming that Amnesty’s malicious behavior toward Egypt is an attempt to defame the state while promoting the interests of terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Some criticized Amnesty for having a double standard of addressing military issues in Egypt while failing to comment on human rights abuses in Turkey and Israel.

Media Bodies Law Progresses through the Media Committee:

Following calls made by Abdel ‘Al and other representatives to expedite the legislative process of the Media Bodies Law, coupled with his harsh criticism of Egyptian media, the Media Committee ramped up its discussion of the law in an attempt to approve the legislation to be passed on to the general floor of the House in the near future. The committee concluded its initial reading of the legislation, prompting its chairman, Osama Heikal, to criticize the government for the initial draft because of the multitude of inconsistencies and errors present. Heikal also mentioned the increasing difficulty of government regulation of the media, claiming that harmful ideas such as those promulgated by the Brotherhood can be easily spread among the public. Heikal later clarified his comments, assuring the public that the law will respect the rights and interests of media members. He stated that the legislation includes an article mandating newspapers to publish their annual budgets and provide lists of their financial contributors.

Strong Egypt Party Placed on Terrorist Watch List:

Following the arrest last week of Strong Egypt Party Chairman Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh for his alleged communications with the Muslim Brotherhood, Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadiq placed both the Strong Egypt Party and Abul Fotouh on the terrorist watch list. This decision prompted the Tahya Misr Fund to submit a lawsuit requesting the dissolution of the Strong Egypt Party based on their new legal designation. Mustafa Bakri of the Constitutional Affairs Committee welcomed the inclusion of Abul Fotouh to the terrorist watch list, stating that any individual or group placed on the list does not deserve the opportunity to participate in the upcoming election in any form.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

Sisi ratified the Bankruptcy Law, which minimizes the number of required legal procedures in bankruptcy cases in an attempt to promote investment.

Sisi ratified the Rights of Disabled Individuals Law. The legislation reduces the tax obligation required for individual with special needs while also eliminating income tax for disabled individuals seeking to start their own business.

The cabinet agreed to amendments to the Natural Gas Law, which outlines new parameters for the bureaucratic structure of the Egyptian Petroleum Authority while establishing new procedures for the shipment and handling of natural gas products.

The cabinet approved a draft law to reorganize the National Archives in an attempt to improve methods for collecting and recording official documents and data.

The cabinet sent the draft South Egypt Development Commission Law to parliament for review. The legislation aims to promote development projects in South Egypt.

In Session:

Parliament held a training workshop with the Omani Shura Council throughout the week with activities emphasizing a review of legislative process as well as general training on parliamentary obligations. The training came as part of frameworks established between the two nations concerning legislative processes.

Abdel ‘Al met separately with four ambassadors to Egypt, including representatives from Kazakhstan, South Korea, France, and Georgia. Abdel ‘Al praised Kazakhstan for its leading role in regional affairs and called for increased parliamentary relations between the two bodies. He echoed similar sentiments in his meeting with the ambassador from Georgia regarding building parliamentary relations, while discussing the Parliamentary Assembly for the Mediterranean with the French ambassador. During his meeting with the representative from South Korea, the two individuals focused on economic cooperation, specifically in the fields of transportation, technology, and defense production.

Ranking officials in the Coalition in Support of Egypt held a meeting to discuss important upcoming legislation. During the meeting, the coalition’s chairman, Muhammad al-Suweidi, stressed the importance of youth engagement in civic affairs.

In News and Statements:

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan condemned the European Parliament’s recent statement on the death penalty in Egypt, claiming that the comments are indicative of the entity’s “ignorance of the real conditions in Egypt.”

Conservative Party spokesperson Rasha Ammar said that security forces arrived to an administrative office owned by the party’s president, Akmal Kortam, because of a legal dispute stemming from the lease of the party’s headquarters.

Representative Essam Aziz Murshid of the Youth Committee stated that Sinai will serve as a graveyard for all terrorists and conspirators against the state. He also commended Sisi and the military’s Operation Sinai 2018 for their successes in combatting terrorism in the region.

Following Sisi’s speech at the Investment Authority, Youth Committee Chairman Farag Omar praised  the president for his efforts in promoting investment in Egypt, adding that the nation has witnessed unprecedented growth in foreign investment during Sisi’s tenure.

Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed thanked the minister of health for the reopening of al-Saff Hospital in Giza, praising medical treatment as one of the pillars of human rights in Egypt.

Looking Ahead

  • Next week, the Communication Committee will continue discussing the draft Protection of Personal Data Law. The law establishes parameters protecting individuals’ personal data on mobile devices, while punishing individuals who infringe on these protections.
  • The Budget Committee will resume deliberations Sunday on the amendments to the Auctions and Tenders Law, and expects to complete its discussions by Tuesday. The legislation calls for the establishment of a points system assigned to workers and contractors to evaluate them and provide a new level of transparency in their work and auctions.
  • The subcommittee formed by the Budget Committee to review the budget from the 2016–17 fiscal year will resume discussions on March 4.
  • The Defense Committee will meet with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on March 4 to discuss various regional and global issues, Egypt’s role in these affairs, and the ramifications that these issues hold for Egyptian national security.