Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Parliament prepares for a busy season

MPs are due to debate the reform of religious discourse and upgrading press organisations when the new parliamentary session begins next month, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

 

Parliament prepares for a busy season
Parliament prepares for a busy season

Parliament begins its next session in the first week of October when political parties will be pushing to secure leading positions on the House of Representatives’ 25 committees.

The 334-member pro-regime Support Egypt alliance will meet next week to set its agenda for the coming parliamentary session. Al-Horreya Party head Salah Hassaballah, parliamentary spokesman of the Support Egypt bloc, told Al-Ahram Weekly members of the alliance will contest leading posts on a majority of committees and the names of candidates will be decided at the meeting.

Support Egypt is not seeking to monopolise parliamentary committees, said Hassaballah: “We are in constant contact with other political parties and independent MPs to ensure the most efficient and qualified deputies win the leading posts on committees.”

Alaa Abed, head of the Human Rights Committee and parliamentary spokesman of the Free Egyptians Party, says a meeting will be held within days to select the party’s committee candidates. “In 2016 Free Egyptians Party MPs were elected head of three committees. We want to increase this to six and also hope to increase our number of deputy chairmen,” said Abed.

Abed confirmed the Free Egyptians Party, which has 65 MPs, is currently coordinating with the Support Egypt bloc over committee elections. “We consult because we are working for national not personal goals,” said Abed.

He confirmed that he will be standing in the hope of retaining his position as head of the Human Rights Committee. Three MPs — Mohamed Al-Ghoul, Margaret Azer and Ali Badr — have already announced they will be contesting the post of deputy chairperson.

Two Support Egypt candidates — real estate businessmen Alaa Wali and Moetaz Mahmoud — have confirmed they will compete for the post of the Housing Committee chairman. They might be joined by two more Support Egypt MPs — Mohamed Khalil Al-Amari and Magdi Morshed.

The Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to see a face-off between the Free Egyptians Party’s Ahmed Said and Support Egypt’s Mohamed Al-Orabi, a former foreign minister.

Bahaaeddin Abu Shokka, secretary-general of the Wafd Party, is expected to retain his post as chairman of the influential Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. Last year five Wafdist MPs were elected heads of parliamentary committees. Abu Shokka says this year the Wafd hopes to increase their number to nine.

The head of the Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee Osama Heikal, head of the Arab Affairs Committee Saad Al-Gammal, head of the Defence and National Security Committee Kamal Amer, head of the Tourism Committee Sahar Talaat and head of the Youth Committee Farag Amer are all expected to be re-elected unopposed.

As well as committee elections MPs face a busy legislative programme just as Egypt is holding its first post-2014 constitution presidential elections.

The first week of the new session is expected to be dominated by discussion of the government’s performance in the first half of 2017. On Monday the cabinet issued a statement saying it will be submitting a review of the government’s economic performance in the first six months of this year as well as a number of key draft laws. “Amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law, Local Councils Law, the Investment Law and the Water Resources Law will all be submitted to parliament in the forthcoming session,” said the statement.

MPs also expect to debate new anti-terror laws.

Osama Al-Abd, head of the Religious Affairs Committee, said the committee will open a debate on new legislation criminalising hate speech and regulating religious fatwas (religious edicts) and sermons in mosques. “The law criminalising hate speech was drafted by Al-Azhar, while the legislation regulating fatwas and sermons was submitted by MPs and approved by the Ministry of Waqf [religious endowments],” said Al-Abd.

Heikal said a new draft law on national press organisations will be the subject of intense debate in the coming session. “We hope that the final draft will give a boost to these organisations in financial and professional terms,” said Heikal.

Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, told reporters on Tuesday a new draft law on the exchange and handling of information is due to be submitted to parliament. An amendment to the 1970 Press Syndicate Law will be also presented for discussion. “The current law, issued when Egypt had adopted a socialist system, is obsolete,” said Ahmed.

A new law on the local councils is ready to be debated, says Ahmed Al-Sigini, head of the Local Administration Committee, and “we hope it will be passed in the coming session to pave the way for long-awaited municipal elections.”

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