Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Lively debates on new laws

MPs are racing against the clock to vote on the 341 presidential decrees issued in the last two years, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

The House of Representatives is close to completing its review of 341 presidential decrees issued after the new constitution came into effect on 16 January 2014.

Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs on Monday that despite media criticism of the debates of 341 decrees, “you have to shoulder the responsibility of the constitutional necessity of ensuring all 341 decrees are discussed and voted on within 15 days of the opening of the parliamentary session”.

He warned, “If we fail to perform this task we risk pushing Egypt into a severe constitutional gridlock.”

By Monday, parliament had finalised its review of 248 decrees. The 93 decrees scheduled to be discussed on Tuesday included new laws governing oil exploration agreements, pensions, national insurance and the regulation of trade unions.

“We are in a race against time,” Deputy Speaker Soliman Wahdan told reporters on Sunday.

“Article 156 of the constitution placed us in a difficult position. We had just 15 days — between 10 and 25 January — to debate 341 decrees. We are facing unfair criticism that parliament has become a rubber stamping machine, but we have to get through the workload by 25 January.”

“There was strong opposition to several laws, including some, like the Civil Service law, that will directly impact on the state budget,” Wahdan said.

“MPs have shown they are willing to reject legislation they believe runs counter to social justice.”

On Sunday, MPs endorsed 64 decrees, the majority of which deal with political issues. They approved legislation covering presidential elections, the president’s annual income and allocations, the Supreme Constitutional Court, the military justice system, money laundering, illicit gains, terrorism, the retirement of military officers and criminal procedures.

The decree setting the president’s salary elicited a great deal of attention. Independent MP Osama Sharshar noted that Decree 37/2014 set a ceiling of LE504,000 ($63,000) on the president’s annual remuneration.

“This is among the lowest of world leaders,” said Sharshar. “While Al-Sisi receives this modest income, US President Barack Obama is paid $480,000 (LE4 million) annually in salary and other allocations.”

The decree was endorsed by 453 MPs. During the 30-year reign of former president Hosni Mubarak the salary of the president was never publicly disclosed.

Abdel-Aal also announced that a handful of political laws, covering parliamentary elections, the exercise of political rights, the workings of the House of Representatives and the division of electoral constituencies, would be debated at the end of the review.

“These form legislation of great significance and they will be discussed in special sittings since many MPs quite rightly want to debate them,” said Abdel-Aal.

On Sunday the House approved two controversial decrees, the Terror Entities Law and the Watchdog Institutions Law.

The Terror Entities Law, issued by President Al-Sisi in February 2015, was rejected by Nour Party MPs who argued that the sweeping powers it gives the authorities to detain citizens contravene the personal rights enshrined in the new constitution.

The second law allows the president to dismiss the heads of the Central Bank of Egypt, Administrative Control Authority, Central Auditing Agency and Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority under certain conditions.

The Watchdog Institutions Law was approved by 328 MPs and rejected by 134. Mortada Mansour, independent MP and chairman of Zamalek Sporting Club, was among its fiercest critics.

“The heads of watchdogs should be decided by parliament rather than the president,” said Mansour. “This is necessary to ensure that personal interests do not play a role in the appointments. These bodies must remain independent.”

On Monday, Bahaaeddin Abu Shuka, chairman of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, told reporters that the controversial Protest Law (Law 107/2013) would not be debated by parliament any time soon.

“The law, issued by former interim president Adli Mansour on 24 November 2013, is not on the agenda of the committee,” said Abu Shuka. “Article 156 of the constitution requires parliament to review only the 341 presidential decrees passed since the implementation of the new constitution on 16 January 2014, not since the removal of Mohamed Morsi from office on 3 July 2013.”

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Protest Law is not on the agenda of parliament’s current review, but added, “This does not mean that we cannot revise it at some later date.”

“A number of decrees dealing with different aspects of human rights issued in 2013 and 2014 will have to be changed eventually,” according to Sadat.

On Sunday, Sadat criticised the endorsement of a 2014 decree regulating prisons, pointing out that even the government-appointed National Council of Human Rights had urged the House to amend it as soon as possible to improve the conditions of detainees in Egyptian prisons.

Mustafa Bakri, a member of the pro-government parliamentary bloc the Pro-Egyptian State Coalition, told reporters that Egypt’s Protest Law is far less harsh that human rights activists allege. He claimed that similar laws in the United States and the UK are far more draconian.

add comment

  • follow us on