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Egypt parliament approves new bylaws

Egypt's parliament finalised its new bylaws on Tuesday, deciding to decrease its total number of committees from 28 to 25

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 8 Mar 2016
Egyptian parliament
A general view of the Egyptian parliament during a working session in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016 (AP)
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Egypt's parliament approved on Tuesday its new internal bylaws that will regulate the conduct of MPs over the next five years.

Over the past three months, since parliament's first session, the proceedings were regulated by the 1979 bylaws.

At the end of the debates on Tuesday, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al said that "this is parliament's first concrete achievement and these bylaws are slated to reinforce parliament's supervisory and legislative powers."

Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa, the Wafd Party MP and chairman of the committee that drafted the bylaws, said that "parliament's new bylaws are a new step towards democracy in Egypt."

Abu Shoqa explained that a six-member committee will be created to put the new bylaws in their final form.

"This is a necessary step ahead of referring the bylaws to the State Council to revise them in legal and constitutional terms," said Abu Shoqa.

The final debates on parliament's bylaws saw significant changes on Monday and Tuesday.

MPs decided that the total number of parliament's committees would be 25 rather than 28.

MPs also rejected the creation of an independent committee aimed at fighting corruption and graft under the title "the transparency and integrity committee."

They also voted down a request aimed at creating an independent committee on media affairs.

On reducing the number of committees, many MPs had complained that 28 committees in parliament were too many and too costly.

Abu Shoqa said that the committees on media, culture, education, higher education and scientific research will be merged into one committee, while two committees on tourism and antiquities will be coalesced into one.

MPs also decided to cancel Article 430, which sets the monthly salary of MPs at EGP 15,000 (around $1,900) and mandates that salaries be tax-free and are to be increased by seven percent every year.

Abu Shoqa said that by cancelling this article, MPs aim to send a message to all Egyptians that "they are totally aware of the hard economic conditions and that they refrain from profiting from parliamentary membership."

He said that the law regulating the House of Representatives states that MP are to receive EGP 5,000 (around $632) in monthly salary and that their overall bonuses cannot exceed EGP 20,000, rather than EGP 42,000 as was originally proposed in the bylaws.

Abu Shoqa also indicated that "a complete chapter, including articles 347 to 351, regulates the House's relationship with the Central Auditing Agency, the country's main watchdog institution."

He said that while the constitution grants the president the prerogative to appoint the heads of such institutions, it gives parliament the right to review the appointees and the power to veto them.

However, Abdel-Al and Abu Shoqa rejected a proposal aimed at putting watchdog institutions under the purview of parliament.

Though MP Makram Radawn said that parliament should have the right to oversee the performance of watchdog institutions, Abu Shoqa indicated that although both the president and parliament have the right to name the heads of such institutions, the constitution states that they are independent and cannot be dismissed by parliament.

In spite of objections from many MPs, parliament decided that those who aim to form parliamentary blocs must gather the support of 25 percent of parliament (around 150 MPs), and that they must come from at least 15 governorates.

Many MPs had asked that the requirement be lowered from 25 percent to 20 percent.

The House also approved a new article (no.421) stating that a parliamentary institute was to be set up to provide MPs in Egypt and the Arab world with intensive training in political and parliamentary areas.

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