Week in Brief – February 4, 2018 – February 10, 2018

02/13/2018 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • Representatives continued to campaign for President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi ahead of the upcoming election. They encouraged citizens to engage in the election and vote, while denouncing the Civil Democratic Movement’s boycott campaign.
  • The European Parliament released a statement decrying human rights abuses in Egypt, prompting a swift condemnation from members of the House of Representatives.
  • Reported abuses and inhumane practices at the Abbasiya Psychiatric Hospital led several representatives to speak out and call for a formal investigation.
  • Representatives criticized the Turkish foreign minister for his pointed comments regarding Cyprus and energy exploration projects in the region.

Presidential Election Developments

Representatives Campaign Ahead of the Upcoming Election:

In light of the upcoming presidential election, multiple representatives, including Hatem Bashat of the African Affairs Committee, formed grassroots initiatives promoting electoral participation and encouraging citizens to reelect President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi. Some representatives formed these campaigns primarily in response to calls to boycott the election from the Civil Democratic Movement, a group of prominent political figures that formed during the candidacy registration period. Each initiative used similar tactics to encourage voter participation, including utilizing Facebook, knocking on citizens’ doors to discuss the election, and holding events on the street level in various governorates. Similarly, Representative Tariq al-Khouli of the Foreign Affairs Committee stated that it is considering holding events abroad to promote voter participation among Egyptian expatriates.

In related news, the Coalition in Support of Egypt, the largest bloc in the parliament, opened a campaign office in Qalyubia as part of its initiative to campaign for Sisi. The coalition asserted that they would operate similar grassroots movements to encourage citizens to vote in the upcoming election.

Representatives Continue to Condemn the Election Boycott:

The Civil Democratic Movement continued to receive criticism from members of the House of Representatives for the initiative’s call to boycott the presidential election over claims of corruption and closed-door dealings. Representatives echoed similar sentiments as last week, describing the movement as an attempt to revert to the chaos and political instability of Egypt following the 2011 revolution. Other representatives, such as Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed, adopted a more cynical response to the movement, stating that it consists of individuals from failed political campaigns seeking to embarrass Egypt. Some representatives doubted the movement’s ability to successfully boycott the election, entrusting the citizenry to participate in the election because of their faith in Sisi’s leadership. Representative Enas Abdul Halim of the Health Committee took an extreme approach, calling on the government to apply the terrorist law to members of the movement because of their desire to disrupt the functionality of the government.[1]

Notable Developments

Representatives Refute European Parliament Statement:

Members of the European Parliament condemned Egypt for its continued use of the death penalty and the government’s lack of protection for basic human rights. Reports estimate that at least 97 people have been executed in Egypt since Sisi assumed the presidency in 2014. Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan rejected the statement and denounced the European Parliament for what he described as interference in Egyptian politics. Radwan refuted the number of individuals executed since 2014, while also criticizing the European Parliament for not being more supportive of Egypt’s war on terror.

Representatives React to Hospital Abuses:

Following the viral release of a video and photos detailing inhumane practices at Abbasiya Psychiatric Hospital, representatives called reprimanding those responsible for the abuses. Photos circulated of patients at the hospital being forced to bathe on the ground in a humiliating manner. The Health Committee was particularly active in responding to the video, forming a subcommittee to investigate the claims and receiving multiple requests from representatives to investigate the reports. Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed stated that the committee was considering a field visit to the hospital in light of the recent report. In related news, the Ministry of Health suspended the head of the hospital as well as 11 members of the nursing staff for an indefinite period of time.

Representatives Criticize Major International Media Outlets:

The New York Times published an article detailing joint military cooperation between Egypt and Israel in Sinai, prompting representatives to condemn the newspaper. Representatives maintained their support for military officials referenced in the article, while claiming that the article was another attempt by the New York Times to embarrass the government. An internal memorandum reportedly circled among representatives calling for the legislature to sue the newspaper for defamation.

Representatives continued their anti-media rhetoric by attacking Al Jazeera. Representative Tariq al-Khouli of the Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the government was exploring options to censor Al Jazeera’s news broadcasts in Egypt over what he described as continued misreporting leading to national security threats.

Backlash to Turkish Foreign Minster’s Comments on Mediterranean Exploration:

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that Turkey intends to explore the Eastern Mediterranean region near Cyprus for oil and gas resources. He added that Turkey rejects the 2013 Maritime Demarcation Agreement between Cyprus and Egypt pertaining to the harvesting of natural resources in the area, which prompted swift responses from a number of representatives in the House. Some representatives were dismissive of the comments, calling them indicative of Turkey’s status as a bankrupt nation or citing international law upholding the agreement as legal. Other representatives responded more defensively, claiming that Cavusoglu’s comments demonstrate Turkey’s continued hostility toward Egypt and that Egypt will respond swiftly to any future attempts at aggression.

Representatives Praise President Sisi’s Trip to Oman:

Sisi’s recent visit to Oman with several members of his cabinet prompted some representatives to praise the president’s trip. Representatives cited the visit as an important step in the continued development of relations, especially in terms of economic opportunities, between the two nations. Similarly, other representatives and Deputy Speaker of the House al-Sayyid al-Sharif hailed the trip as a regional triumph in which the two countries could discuss concerns in the Gulf as well as security issues.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

Parliament passed two separate draft laws regarding financial reparations for families of “martyrs” and injured citizens in wake of the country’s war on terror. The government defines martyrs as any individual whose death was due to a terrorist attack or security operation, and families are identified as any individuals who depended on those deemed martyrs, such as widows and children. The government offers financial reparations depending on the type of injury. The first law, submitted by Representative Mustafa Bakri, focuses on the sources of funding for the payments. The second law, presented by Representative Abdel Hadi al-Qasbi, highlights the availability of various social services to victims of the ongoing conflict and their families. Representatives included additional amendments to Qasbi’s legislation, prompting Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al to criticize them for their efforts, stating that the amendments were not germane to the intent of the original legislation.

Parliament approved amendments to the Expropriation of Real Estate Law submitted by the government. The new legislation delegates additional authority to the president when making real estate decisions regarding the public interest.

The Youth Committee agreed in principle to the Youth Marriage Fund draft law. The legislation attempts to regulate the cost of marriage for citizens in the youth population.

The Local Administration Committee approved an amendment to the Traffic Law, which would increase the cost of acquiring permits for individuals interested in operating food carts.

In Session:

The Budget Committee formed a subcommittee for the purpose of discussing the final report of the Central Auditing Organization in regards to the state budget from the 2016–17 fiscal year. The subcommittee will be led by current Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Mustafa Salam, and the body will hold 13 meetings as part of its mandate.

President of the International Parliamentary Union Gabriela Baron met with Abdel ‘Al and Radwan on separate occasions. Radwan met Baron upon her arrival at Cairo International Airport. Abdel ‘Al discussed regional concerns, especially in regards to terrorism, during his meeting with Baron. Abdel ‘Al also participated in the International Parliamentary Union’s Advisory Group on Combating Terrorism, where he echoed Egypt’s fervent anti-extremism policy.

The Health Committee organized a medical convoy in the village of Atfeeh in Giza governorate to provide medical assistance to local residents. The convoy had a particular emphasis on women’s health and pediatric care, in addition to promoting healthy pharmaceutical usage to assist any ill residents.

In News and Statements:

Parliamentary spokesman Salah Hassiballah stated that the government is making all preparations to prevent foreign media from spreading “false news” during the upcoming election. He added that the government will pursue legal action in any situation deemed libelous, which can be interpreted as a slight to the New York Times for its recent article about Egyptian and Israeli military cooperation.

Representative Maged Abul Khair of the African Affairs Committee praised the government’s recent progress in electrical developments, citing nuclear power plant construction and cooperation with its African counterparts, especially Sudan and Ethiopia.

Representative Amin Massoud of the Housing Committee and member of the Coalition in Support of Egypt claimed that the United States and other Western nations are responsible for the continued terrorist threats in Egypt.

Representative Talaat Khalil of the Budget Committee and 25-30 Bloc stated that Egypt is not experiencing an exceptional period of growth; rather, the country is combatting a variety of problems including terrorism, budget concerns, and a rising population.

Looking Ahead

  • The Manpower Committee is debating final revisions on the Labor Law based on feedback it received regarding controversial articles. The committee expects the draft law to soon reach the general floor of the House.
  • Radwan will develop a formal response to the European Parliament next week regarding its statement about the death penalty and human rights abuses in Egypt.

[1] In light of the recent attacks made against the organization, the Civil Democratic Movement announced that it would submit a request to the prosecutor-general to investigate claims of slander and defamation made against the group and its members by various lawyers and journalists, though no representatives in parliament were mentioned in this reported request.