Week in Brief – May 6, 2018 – May 12, 2018

05/14/2018 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • The House of Representatives approved the Budget Committee’s report for the final account of the 2016–17 fiscal year state budget. Similarly, the body approved in principle the state budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year, which entails a 5 percent increase compared to the previous fiscal year, though the Budget Committee requested additional allocations for the education and health sectors.
  • The House of Representatives agreed on the Cybercrime Law in principle, as the body was not in quorum to approve the bill in its entirety. The legislation permits authorities to block a website if it is deemed a security concern, while also regulating other technological services for potential crimes.
  • An Amnesty International report about inhumane prison conditions in Egypt prompted outrage in the House. Parliamentarians and political parties accused Amnesty of promoting the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, and claimed that the group utilized false research to defame the Egyptian government.
  • Representatives decried the Israeli Embassy in Egypt’s celebration of Israel’s independence day as a mockery of Egypt’s political climate and the current security situation along the Gaza border. Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al warned representatives not to attend international ceremonies without the permission of House leadership, after over 100 representatives were invited to attend the celebration.

Notable Developments

Fiscal year 16-17 Budget Finalized and Fiscal Year 18-19 Budget Approved in Principle:

The state budget was a prominent topic of debate during the past week in the House of Representatives, beginning with parliament approving the Budget Committee’s final report for the 2016–17 fiscal year. Following the body’s approval of the final report, Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al asserted that the 2016–17 budget report did not include any discrepancies nor any constitutional infringements. Similarly, the House agreed in principle to the final state budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year during plenary session. Despite the House approving the 2018–19 budget in principle, the Budget Committee demanded that the Ministry of Finance increase the appropriations for the health and education sectors, though a specific monetary value was not mentioned. Currently, the budget designates 115.6 billion Egyptian pounds (LE) for the education sector and LE61.8 billion for the health sector, which accounts for 8 percent and 4 percent of the total budget, respectively.  These figures are far below the constitutional budget requirements mandating that the health sector’s budget comprise no less than 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and 4 percent of GDP for the education sector.

House Approves Cybercrime Law in Principle:

The House of Representatives approved the draft Cybercrime Law in principle during plenary session, though the body postponed its final vote of the bill because of a lack of quorum. The legislation will include sweeping changes to internet and other technology-based services, as the bill permits the security apparatus to submit a court order to block a website if the site is deemed to be a threat to national security. The law also heavily regulates social media such as Facebook and provides new punishments for theft perpetrated through the use of technology such as credit cards.

Representatives Condemn Amnesty Report on Prison Conditions:

Amnesty International released a report detailing inhumane prison conditions in Egypt, specifically the utilization of solitary confinement. Members of parliament and official political parties condemned the report, as they commonly referred to Amnesty as a biased organization fulfilling the political agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood. Human Rights Committee Chairman Alaa Abed and Parliamentary Spokesman Salah Hassiballah rejected the report, claiming Amnesty used fabricated information and inaccurate research in their report. Meanwhile, the Free Egyptians Party and Wafd Party issued official statements condemning Amnesty and its report as supportive of terrorist organizations and intending to defame the Egyptian government.

Israeli Embassy Celebration Sparks Outrage in House:

The Israeli Embassy in Egypt organized a celebration to commemorate the country’s independence day, and several representatives in the House, including Mustafa Bakri, were invited to the festivities. The celebration prompted outrage in the House, as parliamentarians condemned the event in light of escalated conflict along the Gaza border between Palestinian protesters and Israeli armed forces. Mustafa Bakri submitted an urgent request to Abdel ‘Al to address the issue, as Bakri asserted that the celebration represented a challenge to Egyptians nationwide, based on the political situation in Palestine. Abdel ‘Al responded to Bakri’s request by warning representatives to not attend any international events without the express permission of the House’s leadership.

Constitutional Affairs Committee Will Assess Bylaws for Party Consolidation:

The initiative to consolidate political parties intensified from an institutional perspective, as the Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed to study parliament’s bylaws with the intention of amending them. Abdel ‘Al requested that the committee study the bylaws and potential alterations to them, though he failed to note specific articles under review. The committee is expected to convene next week to begin deliberating changes to the bylaws. This follows the Coalition in Support of Egypt’s organization of an ad hoc legal committee to investigate Article 6 of the bylaws, which prohibits representatives from changing party affiliation mid-session, in order to promote party consolidation.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

The Defense Committee approved amendments to the Mayors Law, which would stipulate that all governorates in Egypt fall under the security jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior unless stated otherwise.

Atef Muhammad Abdel Gawad of the Budget Committee submitted a bill that would require contracts for individuals past the retirement age to continue working. Abdel Gawad drafted this law to promote youth employment.

Said Hassanein of the Health Committee submitted a draft law establishing a National Council for Orphans. The bill would exempt orphans from all expenses related to their education, health, or general welfare, while also establishing a national council under the prime minister’s authority to promote the interests of orphans.

The Religious Affairs Committee resumed its discussion of the Dar al-Ifta Law, which defines the legal role of the entity andguarantees its financial, administrative, and technical independence. Dar al-Ifta is the government body that issues fatwas, or religious legal opinions.

In Session:

The Local Administration Committee submitted a request to the National Elections Authority to conduct the upcoming municipal elections using electronic voting measures in order to increase voter participation and ease the voting process.

The Suggestions and Complaints Committee rejected a request by Representative Bassam Felayfil to shut down any anonymously operated Facebook pages.

The Suggestions and Complaints Committee approved six separate requests by various representatives to construct or refurbish post offices located in Manshiyat Nasser, Sohag, Banha, Ahnasia, and Abbasiya.

The Suggestions and Complaints Committee complained about Local Development Minister Abu Bakr al-Gindi’s absence from the committee’s session Wednesday, as it had requested his presence for the meeting.

Muhammad Zein al-Din of the Transportation Committee submitted a briefing request to the Ministry of Transportation to investigate the status of roads and other forms of infrastructure nationwide because of the recent spike in automobile accidents.

Ibrahim Hegazi of the Education Committee submitted a request to form a fact-finding committee to investigate the flooding that occurred in New Cairo two weeks ago.

Similarly, a delegation from the Agriculture Committee departed for the Red Sea governorate to assess the flood-prevention mechanisms in the region and to speak with local fishermen to discuss economic concerns.

The Budget Committee requested that the government release information regarding its plan to offer shares of state-owned companies on the Egyptian stock exchange. The requested information pertains to the number of companies offered, when the initial public offerings will be released, and the number of shares available for purchase.

Abdel ‘Al criticized representatives for their lack of attendance during plenary session, adding that the same parliamentarians are consistently absent from session, but not revealing names.

In News and Statements:

Abdel ‘Al stated that municipal elections will occur in 2018 following the issuance of the Local Administration Law, which would aim to decentralize local councils and organize the election process.

Suzy Refla of the Foreign Affairs Committee asserted that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal was a decision meant to empower Israel, which she claimed was evident by their missile strikes in Syria following Trump’s announcement. Refla added that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal will further destabilize the region and promote conflict.

Dalia Youssef of the Foreign Affairs Committee stated that a parliamentary delegation will accompany Miriam Mustafa’s parents to the Cairo airport Friday as her body is returned from the United Kingdom. Youssef added that there will be a parliamentary hearing in the coming days to discuss the attack and ongoing investigation. Mustafa, an Egyptian student living in the U.K., was killed there in March.

The Conservative Party appointed Muhammad Abdel Mawla as the vice-president of the organization.

Communications Committee Chairman Nidal al-Said congratulated the citizens of Lebanon and Tunisia for their recent elections.

Abdel ‘Al welcomed a delegation from the French Senate to plenary session Monday.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan and committee member Tariq al-Khouli departed for South Korea Friday to meet with members of the South Korean parliament in an effort to strengthen bilateral relations.

Mustafa al-Gindi of the African Affairs Committee placed third in the Pan-African Parliament’s chairmanship elections, losing to Cameroonian parliamentarian Roger Enkudu.

Looking Ahead

  • The House of Representatives reconvened in general session Sunday, and the body will remain in general session until Tuesday.
  • The Manpower Committee will convene Monday to discuss Representative Muhammad Fuad’s draft Private Workers Budget Law, which is aimed at ensuring that private sector workers receive similar financial opportunities and employment benefits as workers employed by the state.
  • The Housing Committee will resume its discussions of the Reconciling Building Violations Law next week, after previously postponing its deliberations. The bill oversees the construction of settlements and restricts these building projects on agricultural or state-owned land.
  • The Arab Affairs Committee will hold a series of meetings next week to discuss a variety of topics, including the role of the media in regional affairs, the recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon, and the latest developments in Palestine.