In the absence of a parliamentary body to carry out the legislative functions of the state, President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi has enjoyed both executive and legislative authority since his inauguration on June 8, 2014. From a constitutional perspective, the President has a duty to ensure that he is meeting his temporary legislative duties by issuing legislation that will ensure Egypt’s development and success. Meeting these requirements, President Sisi has issued a number of pieces of legislation including the Tax Law, the Maximum Wage Law, and the Real Estate Law, all of which are designed to improve Egypt’s economic woes and pull it out of the throes of economic stagnation. At the same time, however, the President must remain cognizant of the spirit of the Constitution and the importance of the balance of powers; he is to invoke his legislative authority via limited means, and such legislation must be of an exceptional nature to accomplish what is absolutely necessary for the nation’s wellbeing.
This TIMEP project aims to document each piece of legislation issued under these conditions, alongside the legal context in which it exists. Relying on news reports and issues of the Official Gazette, the project provides the most exhaustive English-language register of legislation currently available to the general public. It recognizes the risks associated with legislating in the absence of an independent legislative branch and aims to provide transparency.
Under regular circumstances, Egypt’s Constitution, much like that of many nations, features several mechanisms to protect the deliberative process of legislation. Article 121 states that an absolute majority of the House of Representative members present is necessary to approve laws and that laws deemed complementary to the Constitution are to be issued by a majority of two-thirds of the House. The Constitution also sets forth an extensive means by which to propose legislation, guaranteeing that numerous voices are incorporated into the production of legislation and that the process is not dominated by one party. Article 122 grants the President, the Cabinet, and any House member the right to propose draft legislation. Thereafter, every bill presented is then approved by a committee responsible for the primary review of proposals and then referred to a specialized House committee for review. The President also maintains the ability to object to draft laws approved by the House within thirty days of their drafting.
Absent a House of Representatives, however, legislative authority is vested in the hands of the executive branch. As per the Constitution, all laws adopted by the President during this time are to be discussed and reviewed within 15 days of the enactment of a new Parliament. While Article 156 of Egypt’s constitution technically notes that if parliament does not review the decrees in the first 15 days after commencing sessions, the executive decrees will not have the force of law, uncertainty mires the situation at hand. Previous Egyptian parliaments have taken months to arrange their procedural by-laws, casting serious doubt on the next parliament’s logistical ability to review well over one hundred decrees so soon after its birth. It is unclear what the legal status of the decrees will be if Parliament ignores the language of Article 156 and/or does not partake in a review process; it is also unclear what the Constitution would require for this review process to be considered sufficient. In the case that the decrees are reviewed and accepted, they can only be declared unconstitutional by the judiciary through independent judicial review thereafter.
On June 16, 2014, President Sisi issued one of his first presidential decrees establishing the Legislative Reform Committee, a body tasked with preparing, researching, and studying draft laws and decrees issued by the President and the Prime Minister. While Article 153 of the Constitution grants the President general appointment authority, the creation of a body to draft and review legislation raises serious questions on the potentially extra-constitutional grant of authority handed down to an appointed body that would normally be accorded to the Cabinet or the House of Representatives. Thus, although the President enjoys the advice of advisory bodies like these, it is vital to remember that such entities in no way reflect the representative nature of a working Parliament. By the time that Egypt elects a House of Representatives, if elections take place as planned around March 2015, Egypt will be governed by dozens of pieces of legislation that were the product of presidential authority alone.
The “Legislation Tracker Project” aims to examine these laws, their adherence to the Constitution, and any potential implications they might have on Egypt’s transitional phase. Thus far, a number of controversial laws that implicate citizens’ freedoms and rights have been passed, including the foreign funding amendments to the Penal Code and the University Law; these laws are not urgent nor are they necessary to remedy emergency situations. Such legislation, which is not of an exceptional nature, should be the product of extensive debate and research through an elected parliamentary body and ultimately, should be a reflection of the will of the people. The speedy enactment of such legislation at the sole discretion of the President is contrary to a representative and democratic system.
This project was initiated by Mai El-Sadany, TIMEP’s Non-Resident Fellow for Legal and Judicial Analysis. She is the project’s principal investigator, acting with the support of TIMEP’s dedicated team.