Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1286, (10 - 16 March 2016)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1286, (10 - 16 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Bylaws approved

The House of Representatives has completed its review of parliamentary bylaws, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

This week saw the final debates on parliamentary bylaws that will regulate the conduct of MPs over the next five years. Monday’s approval of the regulations by the House of Representatives means that parliament can now press ahead with the urgent task of forming House of Representatives committees and discussing the government’s policy statement.

Number of committees has increased from 19 to 25 rather than 28.

“Prime Minister Sherif Ismail is scheduled to deliver his government’s programme before parliament on 27 March,” Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs on Sunday.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Magdi Al-Agati confirmed that the government’s policy statement will be delivered as planned. An earlier date, said Al-Agati, is not possible given that Ismail will be attending a parliamentary conference in Zambia from 18 to 22 March.

The constitution requires parliament to approve the cabinet’s agenda. If the government’s programme fails to win a vote of confidence, the party or the coalition with the largest number of seats must name a new prime minister.

Al-Agati had earlier announced that the cabinet would present its programme by the end of January. He then backtracked, blaming the delay on parliament’s tardiness in drafting its bylaws.

The House of Representatives approved 300 bylaw articles last week, and gave the thumps up to the remaining 140 on Sunday and Monday.

Bahaaeddin Abu Shukka, secretary-general of the Wafd Party and chairman of the 25-member committee that drafted the regulations, told parliament on Sunday that the final 140 articles dealt with controversial issues, including procedures to strip MPs of their parliamentary immunity.

“Article 130 specifies the sanctions to be taken against MPs who violate the parliamentary code of conduct during plenary sessions,” said Abu Shukka. “The sanctions will apply to MPs who refuse to observe correct procedures in taking the floor, and those who use their parliamentary membership to direct insults at state officials and public figures.”

MPs found guilty of violations face penalties that range from being banned from taking the floor to being expelled from the house for one or more sessions.

On Sunday the House endorsed an article that increases the number of MPs required for any written request to the speaker to close debates on specific issues from 20 to 30.

During the Mubarak era, Article 317 was used by parliaments to force an end to debates without giving the floor to opposition MPs, said MP Mohamed Badrawi.

The new article, said Abdel-Aal, “allows parliamentary spokesmen to express their opinion on the request before it is put to a vote. This is a new stipulation which guarantees opinions can be heard before any debate is closed.”

The House also discussed the selection process for the heads of watchdog institutions. “A complete chapter, comprising Articles 347 to 351, will regulate the House’s relationship with the Central Auditing Agency, the country’s main watchdog body,” said Abu Shukka.

While the constitution allows the president to appoint the heads of such institutions, parliament retains the right to review the appointees and, should it be deemed necessary, veto the presidential nominees.

MP Makram Radwan had argued that the House of Representatives should exercise direct supervision of watchdog bodies, but Abdel-Aal and Abu Shukka both rejected proposals that would have placed watchdog institutions under parliamentary control.

Two months ago parliament launched a scathing attack against the Central Auditing Agency head, Hesham Geneina, accusing him of inflating figures about corruption in a report issued in December. MPs demanded that an ad hoc parliamentary committee be formed to review Geneina’s report, which claimed that corruption in the public sector had led to the loss of LE600 million in state revenues between 2012 and 2015.

Many MPs accused Geneina of being a Muslim Brotherhood sympathiser and of pursuing an agenda that aims to tarnish the image of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. They demanded that Geneina be sacked and referred to trial.

Article 347 of the draft bylaws obliges the head of the Central Auditing Agency to submit annual reports about corruption in Egypt to the president and parliament.

MPs also approved Article 421, which will establish a parliamentary institute offering MPs in Egypt and the Arab world training in political and parliamentary processes. The House also agreed that the State Council take charge of revising draft laws in line with Article 190 of the constitution. The move was opposed by some MPs who argued it infringed on parliament’s own legislative prerogatives.

The new bylaws will now be referred to the State Council in ten days.

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