Egypt's parliament postpones vote on youth centres law

Ayat Al Tawy , Sunday 19 Nov 2017

File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s parliament postponed on Sunday its final vote – due to the lack of a quorum – on a controversial a law that would ban young people from exercising politics at youth centres nationwide.

The bill, which was passed by parliament last month but is still subject to a final vote, prohibits "exercising political or partisan activity" or "promoting political ideas" at youth centres, introducing jail terms for non-compliance.

Youth centres are state-run sports institutions used by hundreds of thousands of low-income young people and students who cannot afford expensive sports clubs.

Cairo alone has 74 centres, according to the official website of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which is in charge of the centres. Egypt has over 400 centres in urban areas and more than 3,700 in rural areas, according to 2016 data from the country's official statistics agency CAPMAS.

The vote was postponed because the required quorum of a two-thirds majority was not achieved. This is not the first time the ballot was rescheduled; it was also postponed late in October.

The law punishes with jail terms of up to one year and/or fines of up to EGP 50,000 those "who engage in activities contrary to the purpose for which the [youth] institution was established."

The law also punishes those who undermine “security and good morals” at the institutions, disrupt matches or verbally or physical assault sports teams, the institution’s staff or security forces.

The bill also bans smoking, gambling and serving alcohol at youth centres, and states that youth centres cannot be allowed to engage in financial speculation activities.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said on Saturday that "exercising political activities should be confined to licensed political parties only," and that the centres should not serve as a platform for raising political issues.

“Politics aimed at prompting young people to be politically active should not be practiced at public entities like youth clubs, which are not supposed to discriminate among members on political and religious grounds.”

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