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Egypt new House of Representatives: A law-laden session

Following four procedural sittings this week parliament is expected to begin work on a host of draft laws

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 13 Jan 2021
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MPs gathered in a plenary session on Tuesday to elect a speaker and two deputies. Supported by the majority Mostaqbal Watan (Future of the Homeland) Party, Hanafi Ali Gibali, a former chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court (2018-19), won the post to become the 51th speaker of parliament.

Ali Abdel-Aal, speaker of the 2015-20 parliament, did not stand for re-election.

Businessman Mohamed Abul-Enein and parliament’s former secretary-general Ahmed Saadeddin were elected deputy speakers.

On Wednesday, a second procedural session to announce candidates for leading posts on the House of Representatives’ 25 committees was scheduled to be held. MPs must elect a chairman, two deputies, and one secretary-general for each committee

Informed sources say Alaa Abed, a former police officer and head of the outgoing parliament’s Human Rights Committee, is expected to be selected a majority leader in the new parliament.

The pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party swept Egypt’s 2020 parliamentary elections, gaining 316 seats (54 per cent). Mostaqbal Watan also won a majority in the newly-elected Senate.

Mostaqbal Watan leaders are likely to be chosen to chair the bulk of committees. According to party member Mustafa Bakri, a journalist, “Ashraf Rashad, deputy chairman of Mostaqbal Watan Party, is tipped to be re-elected head of parliament’s Youth and Sports Committee, and Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, the former majority leader, is expected to retain his position as head of parliament’s Social Solidarity Committee.”

Bakri also indicated that Ahmed Al-Sigini, another Mostaqbal Watan MP, is expected to be re-elected as head of parliament’s Local Administration Committee. “Mostaqbal Watan MP Ashraf Hatem, a former minister of health, is expected to be elected head of the Health and Environmental Affairs Committee; Karim Darwish re-elected head of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Ahmed Samir re-elected head of the Economic Affairs Committee; Atef Nasr elected head of the Transport and Telecommunications Committee; and Sami Hashem re-elected head of the Education Committee.

Tarek Radwan, a Mostaqbal Watan Party official, is expected to be re-elected head of the African Affairs Committee, Ahmed Badawi to be re-elected head of the Telecommunications Committee and Osama Al-Abd, a former head of Al-Azhar University, is to be re-elected head of the Religious Affairs Committee.

Informed sources also predict that Sahar Talaat Mostafa, a member of Alexandria’s Talaat Mostafa Business Group will lead the Tourism Committee and Talaat Al-Sewidi, of Al-Sewedy Cables, will be re-elected head of the Energy Committee.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree on 6 January naming 28 parliamentary appointees. They include former minister of state for parliamentary affairs Ibrahim Al-Heneidi who is expected to be elected chairman of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Doreya Sharafeddin, a former minister of culture, is expected to become head of the Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, joining fellow appointee Mona Omar, a Foreign Ministry official, who is tipped to replace Abed as head of the Human Rights Committee.

Following this week’s procedural sessions MPs face a law-laden session.

Hossam Al-Mandouh, deputy for Giza’s Boulaq Al-Dakrour district, believes the Local Councils Law should top parliament’s agenda.

“The draft law gives elected councils greater powers to supervise executive councils,” said Al-Mandouh. “It will turn elected local councils into mini-parliaments capable of combating corruption and withdrawing confidence from local officials, including provincial governors.”

The law will also regulate local council elections. Delays in preparing the draft law, compounded by security concerns, led to a situation in which local elections have not been held since June 2011.

“The draft law will spearhead a process of decentralisation, providing provincial governors with greater powers to enable them to implement government policies in coordination with provincial development councils which are to be created in all governorates,” said Al-Mandouh.

Minya MP Ihab Ramzi said parliament will also discuss new laws on consumer protection, the landlord-tenant relationship, personal status litigation value added tax, and the penal code.

Ahmed Zidan, who represents North Cairo’s Shobra district, expects that parliament to grapple with a host of economic laws regulating e-commerce, the stock exchange, sovereign bonds, and unified planning.

Leftist MPs, including Tagammu Party Deputy Ahmed Bilal, argue labour and public sector laws should be amended to protect workers’ rights in the face of privatisation and liberalisation policies.

Some sources believe a cabinet reshuffle will happen before MPs get down to tackling their legislative workload.
Bakri said in a TV interview on Saturday that any reshuffle is likely to take place following the completion of this week’s procedural sessions. “I don’t have information on which cabinet ministers will stay or leave, but I have been told a cabinet reshuffle is imminent,” he said. Outgoing speaker Abdel-Aal said last month that the government is not obliged to submit its resignation following the end of the parliamentary elections.

“We do not have any articles in the constitution that stipulate that the government should resign before a new parliament is elected,” said Abdel-Aal. “The constitution states that the president has the authority to appoint a new government at any time.”Abdel-Aal added that President Al-Sisi may choose to change the government or introduce a limited cabinet reshuffle after the election of a new parliament.

Article 146 of the constitution states that the president of the republic shall entrust a prime minister with forming the government and delivering a policy statement before the House of Representatives. If the president’s appointed government fails to win the confidence of a majority of MPs within 30 days the president shall appoint a prime minister nominated by the majority party or the coalition that holds a majority in the House of Representatives.

Article 147 allows the president of the republic to relieve the existing government from carrying out its duties, but only after winning the approval of the majority of MPs.

The government of Prime Minister Madbouli came to office in June 2018. Madbouli said at the time that the main job of his government was to oversee the implementation of the 2016 International Monetary Fund-inspired economic reform programme.

There have been two limited cabinet reshuffles in the last two years. The first came in March 2019 when Kamel Al-Wazir was appointed minister of transport, and the second in December 2019 when 10 cabinet ministers were replaced.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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