Legal changes

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 4 Oct 2022

On Saturday and Sunday, the House of Representatives held four procedural sittings in which Speaker Hanafi Gibali briefed MPs on what to expect in the new legislative season.

Legal changes
Legal changes

 

Speaker Hanafi Gibali told MPs that the House’s third legislative session will focus on priorities that serve the national interest and “contain the negative impacts” of the current global economic crisis.

 “We still have a long way to go to stand up to the challenges we face,” Gibali said.

In its third session, the House and government will work in close coordination to develop legislation and solve the problems facing citizens in terms of food and security, according to the speaker.

MPs voted on Saturday in favour of a presidential decree placing some parts of Sinai under exceptional security measures for an additional six months, beginning on 3 October 2022.

“The measures, which will be implemented by police and military forces, aim to combat the remnants of terrorist cells in some parts of North Sinai,” said Gibali.

On Sunday, the majority party Mostaqbal Watan swept the elections for positions on the House’s 25 committees. Seventeen Mostaqbal Watan MPs were re-elected uncontested as heads of committees, and Mohamed Suleiman, a senior Mostaqbal Watan official, replaced Ahmed Samir as chair of the House’s Economic Affairs Committee. Samir resigned after he was appointed trade and industry minister in August. Suleiman, 51, is a graduate of Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Commerce and holds a PhD in financial management. Suleiman will also serve as rapporteur of the National Dialogue’s Inflation and High Prices Subcommittee.

Economic Committee member Hassan Ammar told Al-Ahram Weekly that economic laws will dominate the House’s new legislative session.

“The social insurance bill, which aims to streamline insurance regulations in line with international standards, and the labour bill, which covers issues such as child labour, women in the workplace, maternity leave, strikes, working hours, minimum and maximum wages, automatic dismissal of workers, and labour lawsuits will feature prominently,” said Ammar. Both were passed by the Senate in its outgoing session.

Ammar also said a new bill establishing a higher council for vehicle manufacturing is set to be discussed. The government-drafted bill, referred to the House on the last day of its outgoing session in June, “will serve the government’s strategy of developing the local automotive industry, with a focus on electric vehicles”.

The bill was approved by the Senate’s Industrial Committee on 28 September and is likely to be debated in the House within two weeks.

Ammar also revealed a raft of government-drafted amendments to the competition law are due to be referred to the House’s Economic Committee.

“The amendments were discussed by the Economic Committee in July but owing to differences between the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) and the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) over the changes they failed to make it through parliament’s 2022-23 outgoing session.”

Ammar explained “the amendments aim to give the ECA greater powers to regulate mergers and acquisitions, an issue that has grown in importance following the government’s decision to exit some areas of the economy in favour of the private sector.”

Two weeks ago, Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait announced that amendments to the income tax law had been approved by the cabinet and referred to the House. The amendments raise the ceiling for income tax exemptions from LE9,000 to LE15,000.

Many anticipate that long-delayed amendments to the personal status law will be discussed by the House this season. Under directions from President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, a judicial committee was formed in April to redraft the personal status law after it was shelved last year following a backlash from women’s rights groups. The personal status law regulates marriage, divorce, child custody, guardianship, alimony, polygamy, inheritance and other family-related matters largely derived from Sharia (Islamic law). The draft grants emergency alimony to divorced women and their children, outlaws child marriage and imposes penalties on men who marry again without informing their first wife.

In tandem with changes to the personal status law, a draft bill criminalising child marriage is also expected to make its way through the House. Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said the government wants to see the bill, which was approved by the cabinet in April, on top of the House’s 2022-23 agenda. The law prohibits children under 18 from marriage and sets penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to LE200,000 for those who facilitate such marriages.

Before adjourning for summer recess in July, the House received amendments to the 1994 environment law (1994), which are also expected to be debated. A number of laws drafted by MPs are likely to be discussed by the House’s committees. They include legislation banning hospitals and clinics from offering health services without their first covering staff with insurance and establishing a mechanism to compensate patients harmed due to medical negligence, and a bill criminalising admission procedures by private and international schools that discriminate against applicants on the grounds of religion, social class, sex, age, and colour.

Changes to political laws might find their way to the House’s concerned committees, including the 1956 law on the exercise of political rights, the 1977 law regulating the performance of political parties law and the 2014 law regulating parliamentary elections.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 6 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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