EPW Week in Brief – July 10-July 16, 2019

07/17/2019 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • The House of Representatives approved the draft NGO Law on July 15, which will replace the 2017 NGO Law if ratified by President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi. Representatives were critical of the draft law being submitted so close to the end of the legislative session, noting that they did not have an appropriate amount of time to debate it. Despite last-minute attempts to prolong discussions of the draft law, the bill was approved with only seven representatives (notably from the opposition 25-30 Bloc and the Nour Party) reportedly voting against the proposal.
  • Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al adjourned the fourth legislative session of the House of Representatives; parliament will remain in summer recess until it reconvenes in October. According to a House report, parliament approved 156 laws and 65 international agreements during the fourth legislative session. Despite a late push, the House failed to pass a law governing a new upper house of parliament as outlined in the recently ratified constitutional amendments.
  • Independent media outlet Mada Masr reported a growing divide in the House between Abdel ‘Al and other representatives. The report indicated that the representatives have grown increasingly critical of Abdel ‘Al’s leadership, and that these sentiments have been expressed by Egypt’s intelligence apparatus as well.

Notable Developments

House Approves New NGO Law[1]:

The House of Representatives approved the draft NGO Law on July 15 after previously agreeing to it in principle during plenary session on July 14; the new NGO Law will replace the 2017 NGO Law if ratified by President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi. Though representatives acknowledged the importance of the bill in preventing unlawful activities and in light of the upcoming United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Egypt’s human rights record, representatives criticized the government for introducing the bill so late during the legislative session. Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al questioned why the cabinet referred the bill to the House despite parliament typically breaking for summer recess by June 30. Similarly, Social Solidarity Committee Chairman Abdel Hadi al-Qasbi noted that the committee debated the draft law for three days, which he did not believe was an appropriate amount of time to consider the bill.

During voting procedures for the bill on July 15, Representatives Nadia Henry and Hatem Abdel Hameed submitted two separate requests to prolong discussions of the draft law. Henry’s request was rejected by Abdel ‘Al for lack of substance, and it is unclear if Hameed’s request to revisit utility expenditures for civil society groups’ headquarters was acknowledged. Seven representatives reportedly voted against the draft law, though no official vote count exists. Of the seven representatives, Mada Masr reported they were members of the opposition 25-30 Bloc and Nour Party, as well as Representative Mustafa Bakri who notably rejected the bill. The bill awaits ratification by Sisi before becoming an official law.

Abdel ‘Al Concludes Fourth Legislative Session:

Abdel ‘Al announced the end of the fourth legislative session of the House of Representatives on July 15, prompting summer recess until early October. At the conclusion of Monday’s plenary session, Abdel ‘Al thanked multiple parliamentary officials, including his two deputies and members of the General Committee, for their efforts in guiding the House’s agenda for the past nine months, while also recognizing representatives in the House for their efforts in promoting the interests of their constituents and the state. Abdel ‘Al praised the “trusting” relationship between the government and the House, and he described the constitutional amendments as the most significant achievements of the House during the past session. Following the adjournment of the legislative session, the House published a report of its accomplishments, which reportedly include 156 laws, 65 international agreements, 32 field visits, and 22 requests to lift parliamentary immunity.

Investigative Piece Reveals Lack of Faith in Abdel ‘Al’s Leadership:

Mada Masr published an article documenting growing divisions between Abdel ‘Al and other parliamentary figures, including members of the General Committee. During plenary session on July 8, representatives grew upset with Abdel ‘Al over his demeanor and asserted to him that he had lost control of the legislature. Parliamentary sources speaking to Mada Masr stated that faith in Abdel ‘Al is at an all-time low since he became Speaker of the House three years ago. Abdel ‘Al has also reportedly lost the support of Egypt’s “sovereign entities,” referring to the intelligence apparatus and the presidency.

House Considers Prosecutor-General’s Request to Lift Parliamentary Immunity:

The House debated three requests from the prosecutor-general to lift the parliamentary immunity of current representatives. The House agreed to lift the immunity of Representative Salah Eissa after he allegedly accepted bribes exceeding 2 million Egyptian pounds in exchange for illegal building permits for cemeteries; he is being charged in Case 520 (2019). However, the House refused the prosecutor-general’s requests to lift the immunity of Representatives Muhammad Mahmoud Omara and Rania al-Sadat. Omara was accused of assault as part of Case 27077 (2018), while Sadat was accused of illegal economic activity in Case 1 (2018).

House Fails to Pass Laws Governing Upper House before Summer Recess:

Prior to the House breaking for summer recess, representatives considered two separate draft laws pertaining to a possible second legislative house, though these bills ultimately failed to be approved before the end of the legislative session. Per the constitutional amendments ratified earlier this year, a second upper house was to be established. Social Solidarity Committee Chairman al-Qasbi, who is also the chairman of the Coalition in Support of Egypt, submitted a draft Senate Establishment Law, which called for a chamber consisting of 240 representatives. The coalition was rumored to be planning on introducing a separate draft law legislating Senate elections, which would have taken place in October during a 60-day electoral period. Per parliamentary bylaws, the House will be able to revisit and debate pending legislation that has not been voted on, including the law establishing the upper house, during the fifth legislative session in October.

Russian Parliamentary Delegation Visits Egypt:

Russian Senator Farit Mukhametshin, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Russian Federation Council, visited Egypt’s House of Representatives. Mukametshin, also the leading Russian figure in the Egyptian-Russian Parliamentary Group, met with his counterparts in the Parliamentary Group on July 15 to discuss bilateral cooperation, primarily in education. Members of the Egyptian parliamentary group, led by Representative Sahar Talaat, were invited to visit Russia in September to continue discussions. Mukhametshin also attended plenary session on July 15, when Abdel ‘Al recognized his visit as indicative of strong bilateral relations.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

The House approved a three-month extension of the state of emergency on July 11, which appeared originally in the Official Gazette on April 23. The extension is set to begin on July 25. Egypt has been under states of emergency nearly continuously since April 2017, and parliament has approved all emergency declarations since then. Egypt’s constitution limits states of emergency to three months, with one extension of the same length, though this restriction has been repeatedly circumvented by allowing brief lapses before declaring a new emergency.

The House approved the Public Shops Law on July 15, which it had previously agreed upon in principle on December 10. The law requires shops to acquire operating licenses from a government-led licensing committee before beginning operations; existing shops prior to the law must acquire the proper licensing within one year of the law’s implementation. The law also requires businesses regulated under the law to place surveillance cameras around their facilities.

The House approved the government’s Social Insurances and Pensions Law on July 15 after previously agreeing upon the law in principle on July 10. The law makes the National Insurance Commission subordinate to the authority of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, while also allowing the state to invest 75 percent of bonds and bills available in the Treasury Reserve.

The House approved the amendments to the Economic Courts Law on July 15. The amendments grant economic courts the ability to hear criminal cases related to money laundering, micro financial activities, and crypto-crimes in addition to others.

The House approved the amendments to the Lawyer’s Syndicate Law on July 15. The amendments permit the head of the syndicate to serve two four-year terms, and the amendments regulate the process for members of the syndicate to express votes of no confidence in elected members of the union.

The House approved the government’s amendments to the Trade Unions Law on July 11. The amendments reduce the number of workers required to be in an officially recognized union, and it replaces prison sentences under the law with financial penalties.

The House approved the amendments to the Intellectual Property Rights Law on July 11 after it had agreed upon the law in principle on July 10. The amendments provide protections for agricultural products (such as seeds) bred by individuals working in the agriculture sector.

The House approved the government’s Supreme Council for Medicine Law on July 11, which states that all public medical employees fall under the authority of the council, a government entity under the auspices of the prime minister.

The House agreed in principle to the government’s amendments to the Private Universities Law on July 10. Under the amendments, the Supreme Commission for Higher Education will be led by the minister for higher education and will also consist of university presidents and educational experts from public and private universities.

The House agreed in principle to the amendments to the Port Said Development Law on July 10. The amendments clarify budget practices for the Development Authority created under the law, especially financial transactions related to investments.

The House agreed in principle to the government’s amendments to the Stamp Tax Law, which imposes a tax on stamps ranging from 1.25 to 1.75 percent.

In Session:

Representative Rida al-Beltagi of the Energy Committee submitted a briefing request on the delivery of a drinking water station in Sheikh al-Shoban, Cairo.

According to a report from Youm7, representatives received 130 messages from constituents on WhatsApp during the month of June.

The African Affairs Committee published a document detailing its diplomatic accomplishments during the fourth legislative session, which included visits to 12 other countries, 27 meetings with ambassadors, and 16 meetings with public officials from other countries.

In News and Statements:

Free Egyptians Party Chairman Essam Khalil stated that the party has been meeting with several international organizations to discuss Turkey’s human rights violations, and the party intends to submit a report on the matter before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Representative Abdel Rahim Ali of the Arab Affairs Committee praised the recent announcement that Sisi will visit France in August, calling the trip an opportunity to expand Egyptian-French relations in several fields.

A delegation from the Libyan House of Representatives, associated with the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, visited Egypt’s House of Representatives July 14 to discuss the ongoing security situation in Libya as well as Turkish involvement in the conflict.

Looking Ahead

  • Abdel ‘Al announced that plenary sessions will be broadcast live during the upcoming legislative session beginning in October.
  • Representative Mahmoud al-Saidi of the Economic Affairs Committee stated that the House is expected to debate the draft Local Administration Law during the next legislative session starting in October.

[1] For more information on the substance and implications of the new NGO Law, please consult TIMEP’s Draft NGO Law of 2019 Brief.