Week in Brief – March 25, 2018 – March 31, 2018

04/03/2018 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • Members of the House of Representatives participated in last-ditch campaign efforts for the presidential election.
  • A week of ongoing debate led to the passage in committee of a draft law regulating the legal statuses of passenger transportation companies, which would resolve challenges to the legality of operations for Uber and Careem.

Notable Developments

Presidential Election Period Concludes:

Domestic voting in the presidential election began last Monday and continued through late Wednesday evening. Amid reports of dwindling voter turnout, representatives utilized a variety of strategies to convince Egyptians to participate in the election. Some members of the House, including Mustafa Bakri of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, publicly pleaded with citizens to vote, framing particaiption as a defense against forces attempting to wage war on the state. Others, such as Representative Muhammad al-Ghoul of the Human Rights Committee, praised specific demographic blocs, primarily women and elderly residents, for leading the effort to fulfill each citizen’s “national duty of civil engagement.” Meanwhile, reports surfaced about some representatives utilizing illegal methods to encourage voter participation by offering financial compensation and food baskets.

Following a car bombing last weekend in Alexandria that killed two conscripts, several representatives decried the attack as an attempt to intimidate Egyptians ahead of the presidential election. Representatives Muhammad Zayn al-Din of the Transportation Committee, Yasser Omar of the Budget Committee, and Tadrus Qaldus of the Communications Committee dismissed the terrorist threat, stating that Egyptians would not be deterred from engaging in their national duty to vote. The parliamentarians also hailed the success of the ongoing Sinai 2018 military operation.

Following three days of voting and several days to count ballots at polling locations nationwide, the National Elections Authority (NEA) announced that President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi won reelection, garnering 97.1 percent of eligible votes and 90 percent of all votes submitted;[1] meanwhile, his opponent, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, won 2.9 percent of eligible votes and 2.7 percent of all tallied ballots. Of roughly 58 million registered Egyptians, 24.3 million participated in the election, yielding a turnout rate of 41 percent.

Abu Shoqa Victorious in the Wafd Party Internal Election:

The chairmanship election for the Wafd Party dwindled to four candidates, including Hossam al-Khouli, deputy chairman of the party ; Bahaa Abu Shoqa, secretary-general of the organization and current Constitutional Affairs Committee chairman, ; Yasser Hassan, assistant to the current party chairman al-Sayyid al-Badawi; and Alaa Shawali, grandson of the celebrated Wafd Party leader and statesman Saad Zaghloul. Abu Shoqa won the position, handily gaining 1,380 votes from the 2,500 eligible party members, compared to Khouli’s 900 votes, with few votes for the other candidates.

Uber and Careem Legislation Passes Committees:

Following the Administrative Court’s decision to suspend operations for Uber and Careem, committees in parliament worked tirelessly to ratify the Public Transportation Using Information Technology Services Law. The Communications and Transportation Committees held joint sessions with other committees in the House as well as with representatives from the two companies throughout the week to discuss the government draft law. Rana Kortam, a representative from Uber, expressed her concern over two articles in the bill that require the companies to store user information in government servers, which Kortam decried as a gross abuse of power in the name of national defense. In addition to the monitoring program, the legislation requires Uber and Careem to pay additional fees to the government and to collaborate with taxi drivers on business ventures. A joint committee of Transportation, Communications, Defense, and Economic Affairs approved the bill in principle on March 30, but postponed a final vote in order to discuss the two amendments in question in further detail. During a joint session Saturday, the committees approved the law in entirety; it will go to the floor of the House for a vote before review by the State Council.

Return of Delegation Investigating Death of Miriam Mustafa:

The delegation from the Human Rights Committee that traveled to the United Kingdom to investigate the attack on Miriam Mustafa and her subsequent death returned to Cairo last Sunday. The group met with police officials and staff from the hospital where Mustafa underwent treatment following her assault. The group also visited the Egyptian Embassy in London to meet with Mustafa’s family and discuss the procedure for returning her body to Egypt as soon as possible for burial. Upon arriving to Egypt, Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed expressed his concern over the medical practices of the hospital where Mustafa was treated, adding that the individuals responsible for the attack will be brought to justice.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

The cabinet referred its official state budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year to the House of Representatives, and Speaker of the House Ali  Abdel ‘Al sent the bill to the Budget Committee upon receiving it from the cabinet. The budget aims to continue existing economic and administrative reforms, while simultaneously attempting to attract additional investments, primarily manufacturing-based, and to improve the competitiveness of Egypt’s current markets. Per constitutional stipulations regarding the budget, the Budget Committee must meet with representatives from the Finance Ministry before sending the bill to the general session of the House for further debate.

The Communications Committee held a private session to complete its discussions on the Cybercrime Law. Additionally, the committee met in a separate joint session with representatives from the Constitutional Affairs and Defense Committees to discuss the bill. If approved, the legislation would reorganize the technological sector, ostensibly to protect citizens and the government from cybercrimes. The law also includes additional regulations and monitoring procedures for social media websites.

The cabinet referred the draft High Council to Combat Terrorism Law to the House of Representatives. The bill aims to mobilize institutional and civilian endeavors to address the root causes of terrorism, reduce its ramifications, and provide additional counter-terror policies. The law establishes a high council to monitor terrorist activity under the leadership of the president, while creating new monitoring systems for civilians, military personnel, political officials, and religious institutions to report terror-related incidents and rumors.

In Session:

The Women’s Rights Commission of the Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly held its opening session last week in Egypt. Abdel ‘Al is chairing the session for the duration of its proceedings.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee refused to investigate a request to lift Mortada Mansour’s immunity following recent financial trouble with the Zamalek Club.

In News and Statements:

Karim Salem of the Budget Committee praised the Central Bank’s decision to reduce interest rates as indicative of the economy’s recent success due to increased investments.

Amal Zakaria Qutb of the Youth Committee declared that 2019 ought to be the official Year of the Child to highlight issues surrounding family care nationwide.

Looking Ahead

  • Following the approval in committee of the Public Transportation Using Information Technology Services Law, parliament is expected to approve the law within the next week.
  • The House is expected to begin discussing the draft Food Cart Registration Law next week during general session. The bill would regulate food carts throughout Egypt in an attempt to centralize the growing industry.

[1] Note: Ballots submitted for candidates other than Sisi or Moussa were deemed invalid, as well as ballots containing unknown or illegible marks.