Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1370, (23-29 November 2017)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1370, (23-29 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Four in one

Laws banning political activities in sporting clubs and regulating the use of drones and surveillance cameras are approved by MPs, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

The House of Representatives approved a handful of laws on Tuesday.

The first to be nodded through by MPs was the 47-article government-drafted Youth Institutions Law which bans youth clubs and youth centres from engaging in political activity.

The first article of the law prohibits employees of youth centres from using the premises for partisan activities or to promote political and religious agendas.

Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said the law would help to restrict political activities to licensed political parties. “The constitution makes clear that youth centres cannot be forums for the raising of political issues,” said Abdel-Aal.

“Politics as a science of course includes many ideas that are studied in schools and universities. But what we are talking about here is the indoctrination of young people which clearly should not happen in youth clubs and the like.”

Free Egyptians Party MP Ayman Abul-Ela agreed with the argument youth clubs should not be used “as centres for promoting political or religious agendas”.

Article 31 of the law bans smoking, gambling and alcohol from youth centres and prevents them from engaging in any form of financial speculation.

On the same day MPs provisionally approved a legislative amendment that bars judges from standing in board elections at sporting clubs. The amendment, submitted by secretary-general of parliament’s Sports and Youth Committee, Fawzi Fatta, has now been referred to the State Council.

Fatta said he tabled the amendment after a judge running for the post of head of the Heliopolis Club insulted parliament. “A judge who opted to run in an election violated the principle of independence by raising political issues during the campaign,” said Fatta.

Minister of Sports and Youth Khaled Abdel-Aziz argued candidates running in sporting club elections should refrain from discussing political issues during their campaigns.

“The ministry has sent letters to all sporting clubs notifying them that political activities are legally banned,” said Abdel-Aziz. “On behalf of the Ministry of Sports and Youth and the Heliopolis Club I would like to apologise for all the insults recently directed at parliament and its speaker. It is appalling that a candidate who is also a judge should insult parliament in such a way.”

Abdel-Aal told MPs that judges are prevented by the constitution from standing in any elections that might impact on their neutrality. “A judge cannot be both head of a sporting club and head of a court,” he said.

Another law which received provisional approval bans the use of remotely operated aircraft, commonly known as drones. Abdel-Aal told a plenary session of parliament a final vote on the law would be postponed until it has been revised by the State Council.

The regulation of the use of electronic and wireless-operated aircraft and their handling and trade bans “drones capable of carrying explosives or weapons systems that could pose a danger to “national security”.

Article 1 makes the Ministry of Defence the sole authority responsible for licensing the use of drones. Article 2 bans ministries, local councils, public institutions, companies and individuals from importing, manufacturing, assembling, handling or trading in drones without prior approval from the Ministry of Defence. Another article sets prison terms ranging from one to seven years, and fines of LE5,000 to LE50,000, for anyone found to have violated the first two articles. In cases where drones have been used to facilitate terrorist attacks the death sentence can be applied.

Major General Mamdouh Shahin, deputy defence minister for constitutional affairs and military justice, told MPs the law does not impose a total ban on drones but allows them to be used “with the prior and exclusive approval of the Ministry of Defence”.

A law regulating the installation and use of street surveillance cameras has also been provisionally approved.

The law states that the Interior Ministry should oversee the installation of such cameras which are “to be operated and supervised by a central system”.

The cameras, says the law’s explanatory note, represent “an additional tool to crack down on terrorism and other crimes and make life on Egypt’s streets more secure and disciplined”.


UP IN SMOKE: MPs have approved an amendment to the Value-Added Tax (VAT) law of 2016 which will increase the price of tobacco. The draft changes were approved by the Budget Committee in an urgent meeting on Tuesday morning and given the green light by MPs in a plenary session the same afternoon, reports Gamal Essam El-Din.

In an explanatory note the government said the amendment had been submitted following consultation with “all concerned parties” and that the increased revenues would help offset the budget deficit and fund increased spending on social protection programmes, including the new national health insurance system.

“The price of cigarettes will be increased at different rates,” said the note. “Cigarettes which now retail at less than LE18 will be increased by LE3.5 a box. Cigarettes currently sold at between LE18 and LE30 will go up by LE5.5 and those sold at more than LE30 will be increased by LE6.5.”

VAT on shisha tobacco will be raised from 150 to 175 per cent.

Minister of Finance Amr Al-Garhi told the Budget Committee the VAT increase will raise between LE7-8 billion.

“I approved the law though it was submitted hastily,” said MP Mohamed Al-Husseini. “I just hope the government really does use the increase in revenue to fund the new national health insurance project.”

MPs’ speedy approval of the amendment followed Prime Minister Sherif Ismail’s surprise visit to parliament on Tuesday morning during which he discussed the VAT increase with Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal.

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