Egypt's parliament prepares for new sitting

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 29 Sep 2018

Parliament opens its fourth legislative season amid expectations two landmark laws will be passed

Egyptian parliament
Egyptian Parliament (Reuters)

Parliament will convene on Tuesday 2 October for its fourth legislative season.

Under the 2014 constitution the House of Representatives is elected for five legislative seasons, each lasting nine months. Parliament convened for the first time in January 2016.

In its penultimate season MPs expect the legislative focus to be on laws regulating local councils and criminal procedures.

Ahmed Al-Sigini, head of parliament’s Local Administration Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly he was optimistic a new local council law will be passed in the fourth season.

“The 156-article law has been designed to regulate the performance and election of local councils and its passing will mean long-delayed local council elections can be held at the end of this year or early next year,” said Al-Sigini.

“The law will cover administrative units at the village, district, town, city and governorate levels across Egypt, including new residential communities.”

“It will also establish provincial development councils in areas such as the Suez Canal and Nile Delta. Led by local governors and with boards that include business representatives, the councils will draw up development strategies and oversee projects that will improve living conditions in the targeted areas.”

The law also stipulates the creation of “a local administration academy”, says Al-Sigini, which will train local council staff.

A mixed individual/list system will be used in local council elections with a quarter of seats going to non-partisan candidates and the remaining seats filled from party lists.

Egypt’s 60-year-old Criminal Procedures Law is expected to undergo a major overhaul as its 560 articles are reduced to 320.

According to Bahaaeddin Abu Shokka, head of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee which drafted the proposed amendments, the changes will streamline the antiquated criminal justice system.

“The current system is cumbersome. Labyrinthine regulations mean final rulings take an enormous amount of time, particularly in cases involving violence and terrorism. The amended law will streamline criminal procedures and allow cases to be heard more quickly.”

Other laws on parliament’s legislative agenda cover construction offences, real estate taxes and loan default.

In preparation for the new legislative season members of the majority Support  elected Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, chair of the Social Solidarity Committee, as their new head on 17 September.

The election also saw 14 women elected to the coalition’s political office.

The Future of Homeland Party, of which Al-Qasabi is deputy head, took the lion’s share of the bloc positions. In parliament’s outgoing session many MPs broke rank with their political parties and announced their intention to join the Future of the Homeland.

Electing the coalition’s head and political bureau was a necessary step ahead of parliament’s new season, says Al-Qasabi, and will allow the bloc “to prepare to contest leading posts on parliament’s 25 committees”.

Mohamed Farag Amer, current head of the Youth and Sports Committee, says he will not seek a new term but will instead stand as a candidate for the chair of the Industry Committee.

Amer, a high-profile industrialist from Alexandria, heads the Borg Al-Arab Business Council. “I will work to boost Egypt’s exports if elected,” he said.

Dina Abdel-Aziz, parliament’s youngest female MP, is seeking to replace Amer as head of the Youth and Sports Committee.

“I decided to stand for the post because young people should have a greater say in parliamentary affairs,” said Abdel-Aziz.

Abdel-Aziz, a 34-year old graduate of Cairo University’s Faculty of Economics and Political Science who worked part time as a television anchor, won a seat representing South Cairo’s district of Helwan as an independent.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 27 September 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: MPs prepare for new sitting

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