Saturday,27 May, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1343, (4 - 10 May 2017)
Saturday,27 May, 2017
Issue 1343, (4 - 10 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

New local council law at last

Parliament has finished drafting a new law which paves the way for municipal elections to be held, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

New local council law at last
New local council law at last

Following months of lengthy debates, parliament’s Local Administration Committee announced on Sunday that it had its discussions of the government-drafted local councils law.

Head of the Committee Ahmed Al-Sigini said the 156-article draft law aims to decentralise and democratise local councils. “The draft law, which is divided into four chapters, also seeks to regulate the elections of local councils,” said Al-Sigini.

Although the law was drafted by government legal experts the committee has changed many of its articles, said Al-Sigini.

“After putting all 156 articles into their final form we submitted the law to speaker Ali Abdel-Aal and now it will be debated in a plenary session.”

Al-Signi explained that although the draft law gives the president the right to appoint provincial governors it stipulates the criteria governors must meet before they can be endorsed. “They must not be less than 35, hold Egyptian nationality, have performed military service and graduated from university,” said Al-Sigini.

“The draft law also stipulates that provincial governors can’t be members of parliament.”

Al-Sigini said some members of the committee voiced objections to the article granting the president the right to name governors.

According to the committee’s report MP Abdel-Hamid Kamal argued that governors should be elected rather than selected.

“We have seen how former presidents abused this power, appointing loyalists such as retired army and police generals as provincial governors at the expense of democratising local councils and improving their performance,” said Kamal.

According to Al-Sigini, Article 12 of the draft law states that “a provincial governors’ council” will be formed to evaluate the performance of local councils on a regular basis.”

“The council, headed by the prime minister, will meet quarterly to oversee the decentralisation of administrative and economic systems and monitor the performance of local councils in upgrading public services and implementing development plans.”

Article 11 of the draft law establishes an academy of local administration that will take charge of overhauling the performance of local councils.

“The article states that not only will the new academy be tasked with conducting periodical research and studies on local administration in Egypt, it stipulates that employees must be certified by the academy in order to be promoted to senior positions,” says Al-Sigini.

“Current village, district and city council leaders will be required to undergo intensive training courses at the academy, studying political economy, law and local administration.”

“What is most democratic about the new law is that it gives elected local councils unprecedented supervisory powers. Councils will act as mini-parliaments. Their members will be allowed to question provincial governors and review development plans and projects in their own governorates.”

“Councils will also be able to withdraw confidence from provincial governors if they wish.”

Governors, says Al-Sigini, will act like prime ministers in their governorates and enjoy all the powers necessary to manage their districts effectively while also being under the supervision of elected councils.

The draft law gives provincial governors the right to issue decrees without first consulting the prime minister or responsible member of the cabinet. “

“Provincial governors, in collaboration with members of executive local councils, will be entrusted with improving public services in their governorates and their activities will be supervised by elected city councils.”

“The law also stipulates that while 25 per cent of municipal seats will be allocated via the individual candidacy system, the remaining 75 per cent will be elected from closed party lists. This mixed system is in line with the 2014 constitution and guarantees that marginalised groups will be represented on city councils.”

Amr Ghallab, deputy chairman of the Support Egypt parliamentary bloc, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the Local Administration, in coordination with government experts, did a good job devising a mixed electoral system for local council’ elections”.

Alaa Abed, head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee and spokesman of the Free Egyptians Party, told the Weekly that he agrees that 75 per cent of seats in local city councils should be reserved for party lists. “As was the case with parliamentary elections, the law aims to use the 75 per cent to boost the role of political parties in local councils,” he said.

The draft law also states that local city council elections be held every four years and protects elected councils from being dissolved by administrative decree.

The law may be fine but, according to Ghallab, “it is not expected to be discussed by parliament soon, meaning local council elections might be delayed to 2018 or even beyond.”

Al-Sigini, in contrast, insists “the local council law will be issued before it adjourns for the summer recess.”

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