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Sisi to issue three decrees before Egypt's new ‎parliament plunges into business

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi will issue three ‎presidential decrees aimed at paving the way for the country's newly-‎elected parliament to hold its sessions

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 20 Dec 2015
Sisi
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi addresses the press after meeting with Greece's Prime Pinister in Athens on December 8, 2015 (AFP)
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President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is expected to issue three decrees as the newly-elected legislative chamber gets ready to convene following the conclusion of Egypt's first parliamentary elections in more than three years.

Egypt's two-stage parliamentary elections closed 16 ‎December. The opening session of the new parliament is ‎expected to be convened within two weeks.‎

In a press conference Friday, Ayman Abbas, head of the ‎High Elections Committee (HEC) that took charge of ‎supervising the polls between17 October ‎and 16 December, announced that all the parliament's 568 elected ‎seats have been filled.

"Out of this total, as many as 325 (57 per ‎cent) won as independents, while 243 (43 per cent) ‎won as party affiliates," said Abbas.‎

Abbas said the number of members of Egypt's new House ‎of Representatives will reach 596 when President ‎Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi appoints 28 (five per cent) public figures as ‎presidential appointees. ‎

Informed sources said Sisi's decree is expected to be issued ‎this week or immediately after 13 MPs who won seats in four ‎constituencies last week obtain their parliamentary membership ‎cards.‎

According to two articles in the 2014 Constitution, ‎the president is authorised to appoint a number of public figures ‎as parliamentary deputies, with the stipulation that at least half ‎of the appointees are women, and that they must also ‎include representatives of workers, farmers, youth, ‎Copts, and the physically challenged.‎

In order to achieve this objective, Article 27 of the House law ‎states that specialised national councils, the Higher Council ‎for Universities, scientific research centres, professional ‎syndicates and trade unions must send the president lists of ‎prominent figures from which he will select appointees for parliament.

‎Article 27 also stipulates that in selecting appointees, the ‎president must make sure that they are not members of any ‎political faction, were not candidates who lost in the ‎polls, are not members of any ruling party he ‎heads, and that they are people who have "performed ‎outstandingly in their professions".‎

Ministers in parliament? 

Nonetheless, Shawki Al-Sayed, a constitutional law ‎expert and a former independent MP, notes that not only does Article ‎‎102 of the constitution allow cabinet ministers to run in the ‎polls, it also does not prevent the president from appointing ‎‎cabinet ministers as parliamentary deputies.

"So we can expect ‎that the president may appoint a cabinet minister like Minister of ‎Justice Ahmed Al-Zind as a parliamentary deputy," Al-Sayed ‎said.‎

Rumours are rampant in parliamentary circles that Al-Zind will ‎be appointed so he could be elected by MPs as speaker ‎of Egypt's new parliament. "If elected speaker of parliament, ‎Al-Zind will be forced to resign as minister of justice," said Al-‎Sayed.‎

Different sources, however, insist that Sisi is keen not to ‎have any hand in electing Egypt's new parliamentary speaker. ‎One informed source with the pro-Sisi "For the Love of Egypt" ‎coalition, which won all 120 party list seats, told Ahram ‎Online that they have no idea which figures will be ‎appointed by Sisi.

"The choice of appointees is a purely ‎presidential business which we know nothing about at all," the ‎source said. "All we know is that Sisi should ‎appoint at least 14 women as MPs."‎

There are strong rumours that the list of presidential ‎appointees will include Amr Moussa, Egypt's former foreign ‎minister, Farouk Sultan, the former head of the Higher ‎Constitutional Court (HCC) and the judge who supervised ‎‎2012's presidential elections, Osama Al-‎Ghazali Harb, an Al-Ahram political analyst and a former Shura ‎Council member, and Mervat Tallawy, chairman of the ‎National Council for Women (NCW).‎

The NCW said a record number of 73 women won seats in Egypt's ‎new parliament. "If a list of 14 female appointees is to be added, ‎the total number will climb to an unprecedented 87, or 12.8 per ‎cent, and this is a historic achievement," the NCW said in a ‎statement.‎

Al-Sayed notes that stipulations imposed by Article 27 ‎of the House law are necessary in order to prevent the president ‎exploiting a constitutional prerogative to ‎appoint figures loyal to him, without regard to whether they ‎are people with outstanding records of performance.

"Under the Mubarak ‎age, presidential appointees were selected only upon the ‎grounds that they were loyal to the president and the ruling ‎party," he added..‎

Al-Sayed hails the fact that all parliament's elected seats have been filled without facing serious constitutional or legal ‎challenges. "But it still remains to be seen whether appeals against ‎the results of the polls in certain constituencies were lodged with ‎the Court of Cassation or not," he said, indicating that ‎‎"Unlike the case under the Mubarak regime, parliament will be ‎obliged to implement rulings issued by the Court of Cassation ‎on appeals against election results."‎

According to Article 107 of the constitution, said Al-Sayed, if ‎the Court of Cassation ordered that the results of the poll in a ‎certain constituency be invalidated, the House will be ‎obliged to implement this order as soon as it officially takes ‎note of it."‎

Other decrees 

Once Sisi's decree on presidential appointees is issued, it ‎will be followed by another on the opening meeting of the ‎new parliament.

According to ‎Article 115 of the constitution, the president should invite ‎the House of Representatives to meet ahead of the first ‎Thursday of the month of October. Al-Sayed argues that "as ‎polls lasted until half of December, parliament was not able to ‎meet in October in compliance with Article 115 of the ‎constitution. But in the coming years it will be obliged to abide ‎by this article."‎

Article 117 of the constitution states that parliament's ‎opening session is primarily procedural, with MPs required to ‎elect a speaker and two deputies for one legislative season only, ‎and that the duration of the legislative session is no more than ‎nine months.

"The speaker and its two deputies should be ‎elected by the majority — or two thirds — of MPs in a plenary ‎procedural session," said Al-Sayed, adding that "This will be ‎followed by another procedural sitting later on the same day to ‎announce the results of electing chairmen and deputies for 19 ‎parliamentary committees."‎

In the opening session, MPs should also take the following ‎national oath: "I swear by the Almighty God to loyally uphold ‎the republican system, respect the Constitution and the Law, ‎fully observe the interests of the People, and to safeguard the ‎independence of the nation and integrity and unity of its land."‎

As a record number of 596 MPs will be required to take this oath, Al-Sayed expects that parliament's procedural ‎opening session will last for as long as four hours.‎

Many expect that parliament's opening session will be held on ‎‎28 December, but parliamentary precedent shows that the ‎opening session is usually held on Wednesdays.

"I think it will ‎be better for the opening parliamentary session to be held in the ‎first week of January, most probably on 6 January. But it all ‎depends on the schedule of the president," said Al-Sayed.‎

Al-Sayed notes that once parliament holds its procedural ‎opening meeting, it will be required to vote on laws that have ‎been issued by the president while it has not been in session.

‎According to Article 156, parliament should discuss and ‎vote on laws that have been issued by the president while it was ‎not in session, and that these votes should be within 15 days of the ‎commencement of its session. "This is a big challenge that the ‎new parliament should face," said Al-Sayed.‎

On the other hand, Al-Sayed argued that Article 150 of the ‎constitution does not make it obligatory for the president to ‎come to parliament after its opening meeting to deliver a ‎speech.

"But I think that Sisi will be keen to invite the ‎House to an extraordinary session to deliver a public speech on ‎the state's public policies. Sisi's ‎speech before parliament will reinforce his international ‎standing as an elected president of Egypt, and that he does not ‎want to hold all powers in his hands."‎

Salah Fawzi, another constitutional expert, also agrees that ‎Article 150 of the constitution stops short of stipulating that the ‎president must deliver a speech before parliament after its ‎opening session.

"This was the case under the Mubarak regime, ‎but it was revoked in the new constitution," said Fawzi, also ‎agreeing that "Once parliament holds its procedural opening ‎sessions and MPs take the national oath, Sisi will be keen to ‎issue a third decree, inviting MPs to listen to a speech by him in ‎an extraordinary meeting."‎

Sisi's speech before ‎parliament will be the first since he came to office a year and ‎half ago, in June 2014. "In his speech, El-Sisi must make a ‎review of his domestic and foreign policies since he came to ‎office and explain his strategy for the coming period," said ‎Fawzi.‎

According to Al-Sayed, Sisi's first speech before parliament ‎must cover crucial issues such as relations with America and ‎Europe, growing cooperation with Russia, Egypt's ‎membership of a new Islamic military bloc led by Saudi Arabia, ‎and negotiations related to Ethiopia's building of a new dam on the Nile River. ‎

More important than Sisi's speech is the government's policy ‎statement. Sisi said the government of Prime Minister Sherif ‎Ismail, appointed in September, will stay until Ismail delivers ‎his government's policy statement before parliament.

According ‎to Article 146 of the constitution, the prime minister must deliver a ‎policy statement before the new parliament and in one month ‎the parliament (with two thirds majority) should decide whether it ‎gives the government a vote of confidence.

"If the ‎government failed to gain confidence from parliament, the ‎president shall entrust the majority party or coalition to form an ‎alternative government, and if it failed, parliament would be ‎automatically declared dissolved and new elections would be ‎held within two months," according to Article 146.‎

According to the parliament's secretary-general, Ahmed Saadeddin, ‎MPs will elect a speaker and two deputies through casting their ‎votes in glass boxes.

"Although an electronic voting system was ‎installed, it will not be operated in the opening session because ‎this will be quite difficult for a lot of MPs to use," said ‎Saadeddin.

He also indicated that MPs who were elected for the ‎first time are currently receiving training on parliamentary ‎procedures and rules, so that they can exercise their powers and ‎duties in a smooth manner.‎

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