Week in Brief – December 3-9, 2017

12/11/2017 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • The House of Representatives met for three days this week and returned to recess until December 17. Only committees and the cabinet will discuss or vote on legislation until the full legislature reconvenes.
  • After six weeks of recess and failing to reach quorum, the House of Representatives finally passed the six laws that had been in legislative limbo over that period. These included a Youth Bodies Law, which outlaws political activism and increases oversight of youth and sports clubs.

Notable Developments

Representatives Reach Strongly to the U.S. Decision to Move its Embassy to Jerusalem:

President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was met with hostility in the House of Representatives. The 25-30 Bloc attempted to rally the legislature for a boycott of American goods, while Representatives Osama Shersher, Ahmed Mustafa Abdul Wahed, and Tadros Qaldas individually called for an emergency session to discuss the announcement. Groups such as the majority Coalition in Support of Egypt and both the Arab Affairs and Religious Affairs Committees also decried the action. Several representatives stated that this “historic crime” would cause chaos in the region and was part of a conspiracy against the Arab world. There appeared to be little consensus on the catalyst for the action, though, with statements pinning the move on everything from the divisions caused by the Arab Spring to the terrorism spread by Qatar.

Abdel ‘Al Takes Strict Measures in Effort to Reach Quorum:

After weeks of failure to meet the necessary two-thirds quorum, the legislature was able to pass six laws that had been in legislative limbo. To meet the quorum, Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al had fought to maintain order and decorum in the legislature. On various occasions, Abdel ‘Al harangued representatives into entering the hall so that quorum could be reached, called for signal jammers to be used to keep representatives off their phones during session, warned representatives against tarnishing the body’s image in front of visiting guests, and reminded representatives to review the House’s bylaws to ensure they understand the legislative processes before speaking. Abdel ‘Al’s efforts were not confined to representatives: He also chastised Finance Minister Amr al-Garhy when Garhy began addressing a general session of the House with his hands in his pockets.

Parliamentary delegation to visit European Parliament:

Tariq Radwan, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that a parliamentary delegation will start a four-day visit to the European Parliament on Sunday. The delegation includes Radwan, Budget Committee Chairman Hussein Aissa, Coalition in Support of Egypt Deputy Chairman Karim Darwish, and Foreign Relations Committee members Tariq al-Khouli and Suzy Rafla. Budget Committee member Karim Salem is also reported by some outlets to be a member of the delegation.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

Parliament passed the government’s amendments to the Family Courts Law.

Parliament passed the government’s Unions Law.

Parliament passed the Youth Bodies Law, which sets out the regulations for youth organizations and the oversight bodies that determine their actions and must approve donations or external uses of funds. These organizations are also prohibited from political activities.

Parliament passed the government’s amendments to the Deputy Ministers Law.

Parliament passed the government’s amendments to the Inheritance Law.

Parliament passed the government’s Drones Law, which bans the use or sale of drones without a permit from the Ministry of Defense.

At their weekly meeting, the ministerial cabinet agreed to a draft Reconciling Building Violations Law and to amendments to the Egyptian Writers Union Law. These laws will now be sent to parliament for debate.

In Session:

The Constitutional Affairs Committee and later a general session of parliament rejected the request to try Representative Mortada Mansour for libel. This is at least the fourth such rejection of requests against Mansour.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed to the government’s draft amendments to the Documentation of Real Estate Fees Law.

The Health Affairs Committee approved the government’s draft Comprehensive Social Insurance Law.

The Media Committee agreed to the government’s amendments to the Artists Syndicate Law.

Parliament submitted to the government a list of 34 proposals from the Suggestions and Complaints Committee that relate to issues faced by representatives’ constituencies, including landfills and new hospital equipment.

A delegation from the Human Rights Committee visited the First Fayoum Police Station, the Second Fayoum Police Station, the Youssef al-Sadiq Police Station, and the al-Shawashna Police Station. The delegation confirmed that prisoners were treated well and there was no torture. The trip ended with a meeting with Fayoum Security Director Khaled Shalaby and the deputy national security director for the governorate. (Shalaby himself was convicted in 2003 in connection with the torture and death of detainee Farid Shawki, and was reported by Italian newspaper La Repubblica to have been directly involved in the 2016 death of Giulio Regeni.)

The Religious Affairs Committee on Friday visited the Rawda mosque in North Sinai, where 311 people were killed in an attack last month, to pray.

In News and Statements:

Nineteen representatives reportedly submitted a memo rejecting the scheduled visit of the Ethiopian prime minister to the Egyptian parliament to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Twenty-four representatives sent a memo to Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, who is still out of the country for medical procedures, asking to have the Minister of Planning Hala al-Said respond to their requests on projects for their constituents, because some of the requests were made three months ago.

The Wafd Party appointed Muhammad Medina as the party’s parliamentary body spokesman following Muhammad Fuad’s resignation from the position.

Al-Sayyid Abdel ‘Al was named as the leader of the Tagammu Party’s parliamentary body.

Looking Ahead

  • The House of Representatives is set to reconvene on December 17 and will likely hold a final vote on the draft Rights of Persons with Special Needs Law during the session. The law was approved in principle during general session this week but representatives balked at Article 29, which exempts disabled persons from paying taxes. The article was discussed and redrafted this week by the Social Solidarity Committee and the government. This process should finish prior to the next general session.
  • The issue of Representative Sahar al-Hawari’s seat in the House should also be voted on when parliament reconvenes. The Constitutional Affairs Committee agreedto strip her of her seat in the House over her conviction for financial crimes. This issue will now go before a general session, and must be passed by a two-thirds majority to remove her from her position. Hawari would be the second representative, following Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, to be formally expelled from the House.