Week in Brief – November 19-25, 2017

11/27/2017 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • The House of Representatives is in recess until December 3. The body, however, is set to reconvene next week for a special session to vote on three draft laws related to the proposed Dabaa nuclear power plant and to discuss the horrific attack on the Rawda mosque in North Sinai.
  • Despite continuing issues with quorum that have stymied legislative efforts for weeks, the House of Representatives proved it can still effectively rubber-stamp government legislation. The government’s proposed amendments to the Value-Added Tax Law, which increase tax rates on cigarettes and tobacco products, were introduced, discussed, and passed within four hours.

Notable Developments

Representatives Condemn Rawda Mosque Attack:

Following the terrorist attack on a mosque in Rawda, North Sinai, carried out by a group of militants linked to the Islamic State and targeting the Sufi community, scores of representatives publicly condemned the attack and expressed their condolences for the 305 people killed and 128 injured. A minority of representatives immediately laid the blame for the attack on foreign elements perceived to be materially and logistically aiding the militants, including Turkey, Qatar, and foreign security services. Though parliament is in recess until December 3, Deputy Speaker Soleiman Wahdan advocated for a special session to discuss the attack.

Emergency Session called to Vote on Nuclear Power Plant Laws:

Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al announced that parliament will hold an emergency session on Monday to discuss the Rawda attack and vote on three government draft laws related to the Dabaa nuclear power plant. The amendments reportedly set up the Nuclear Power Plant Authority and outline its mandate and powers. No official reason was given for voting on the laws during an emergency session instead of waiting on the parliament to reconvene after the recess.

Representatives Still Shirking Session:

Before going into recess until December 3, parliament postponed the final votes for six draft laws because the body lacked the mandatory two-thirds quorum to vote on them. The final votes for several of these laws have now been postponed for three consecutive general sessions because of a lack of quorum. The issue has brought regular criticism and exasperation from Abdel ‘Al and his deputies.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

While at least six pieces of legislation classified as “complementary to the constitution” were postponed for lack of two-thirds quorum (as required by article 272 of the bylaws), legislation that only required a simple majority was voted on this week. Parliament passed the government’s amendments to the Value-Added Tax Law, which increases the taxes on cigarettes and tobacco. The amendments were introduced into committee, passed by the committee, and passed by a general session of parliament in one day.

Parliament passed Representative Fawzi Fatta’s draft amendments to the Sports Law, which prevent judges from running for leadership positions in sports clubs. This comes after a judge was openly critical of parliament during an election for such a leadership position. Several representatives are running for similar positions across the country (see below).

During its weekly meeting, the cabinet approved amendments to the Civil Aviation Law, amendments to the Economic Courts Law, and a draft Public Transportation Using IT Law, which regulates companies such as Uber and Careem.

In Session:

The Energy Committee approved amendments to three draft laws related to the proposed Dabaa nuclear power plant. One of these laws would reportedly exempt the plant from taxes and customs tariffs.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed to the government’s draft Surveillance Cameras Law.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed to the draft amendments to the Agriculture Law, which punish unlicensed ginning of cotton.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed to the government’s draft Bankruptcy Law.

The Health Committee agreed in principle to the government’s draft Comprehensive Social Insurance Law. The government is reportedly preparing an actuarial study on the law.

The Tourism Committee approved the government’s draft amendments to the Civil Aviation Law. The amendments stipulate a fine and jail time for shining laser pointers of a specific caliber at airplanes.

The Agriculture Committee postponed the vote on the draft amendments to the Agriculture Law from Representative Omar Abdel Aziz Maseelhi.

The Housing Committee postponed its discussion of the amendments to the Unified Building Law.

In News and Statements:

Representative Muhammad Salim passed out while speaking during session, but recovered after being taken by ambulance to Qasr al-Aini hospital for care. Session had to be put into recess for five minutes to carry him out.

Tariq Radwan, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that a parliamentary delegation will visit the European Union in December and Abdel ‘Al will visit the E.U. in February.

Tariq Radwan, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, met with the ambassador of the E.U. in Egypt, where they discussed the NGO Law, human rights in Egypt, and the World Youth Forum, among other subjects.

Parliament’s secretary-general, Ahmed Saad al-Din, met with the U.S. Embassy’s political bureau chief, Mustafa Boubal, to discuss the long-term strategic relationship of the countries.

A number of representatives called for the Ultras White Knights members arrested in the Borg al-Arab Stadium after Zamalek played Ahly Tripoli to be released and given amnesty. Abdel ‘Al replied by telling them to not interfere in legal matters.

At least four representatives were reported to have won elections for chairmanship of sporting clubs. Muhammad Farag Omar is the new chairman of Smouha, Tariq al-Sayyid is the new chairman of Olympic, Ismail Nasser al-Din is the new chairman of Helwan, and Mortada Mansour won re-election as the chairman of Zamalek.

Looking Ahead

  • The House of Representatives calling an emergency session over the draft Dabaa nuclear plant laws recently passed by the Energy Committee is an unusual move, and may indicate that final contracts for the plant will be signed soon. An important thing to note about this emergency session will be the number of representatives who show up to vote despite weeks of inability to reach quorum in the legislature.
  • The emergency session will undoubtedly include some discussion of the Rawda attack as well. Based on parliament’s reactions to past attacks, it is likely that there will be several calls for increased government powers to combat terrorism, which could lead to legislative action. (Though little material change followed the December 2016 bombing of the Coptic church in Abbasiya, the House responded to the April 2017 attacks on churches in Tanta and Alexandria with amendments to the Appeals Law and Criminal Procedures Law, intended to hasten the prosecution of terrorists. These amendments were brought up in committee, discussed, and passed in one day.)