Egyptian parliament warms up for a season of hot debate

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 11 Oct 2018

Parliament will soon be grappling with a new batch of controversial laws

Egyptian Parliament (Photo: Reuters)

After parliament had held its opening procedural sitting on 2 October, and the election of the heads of its 25 committees the next day, parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs they have a heavy schedule ahead.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has asked parliament to open new debates on a law regulating clinical trials and medical research.

According to Abdel-Aal, Al-Sisi’s office had written to say the implementation of the law, passed in May, has exposed basic flaws.

“Some of the most controversial articles of the law have sparked serious reactions and divided public opinion,” said the letter.

“The president’s office has received important remarks from scientific and professional circles all of them suggesting some of the law’s articles remain a matter of severe controversy.”

Al-Sisi’s letter identified articles 4, 5, 9, 11, 19, 20, and 22 as need for review. “One of these articles, for example, stipulates the prior approval of general intelligence, as well as national watchdog authorities, on medical research, a colossal task which is difficult to implement given the number of clinical trials and associated research exceeds 16,000 per year,” the letter said.

Article 123 of the Constitution allows the president to refer laws back to parliament for discussion. Abdel-Aal said a report would now be prepared on the controversial elements of the law, following which any amendments will be debated and voted on in a plenary session.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Al-Sayed Al-Sherif told Al-Ahram Weekly that “in addition to reviewing the Clinical Trials Law, two long-awaited laws regulating local councils and criminal procedure will be high on parliament’s agenda in the new session”.

“Both laws are complex and will need a great deal of discussion and debate,” said Al-Sherif.

“There will also be new legislation on labour, insurance and pensions, as well as changes to the law on personal affairs litigation, and traffic regulations.”

The heads of parliamentary committees told reporters they will begin preparing their own legislative timetables this week.

Farag Amer, head of The Industry Committee met on Tuesday to discuss changes to the Anti-Trust and Consumer Protection Law, said committee head Farag Amer.

“Amendments are necessary to improve transparency in market deals and attract foreign investors in a competitive environment,” he said.

On Monday the Tourism Committee met to discuss laws regulating the tourism and hotel sector. “Legislation that was issued in 1968 desperately needs updating to keep abreast of developments in this vital sector,” said committee head Amr Sedki.

Hussein Eissa, head of the Budget and Planning Committee, said members will meet next week to discuss government amendments of the Real Estate Tax Law 196/2008.

“President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi requested the government amend the law and refer it to parliament,” said Eissa. “There will be a lot of hearing sessions to ensure the tax is fair and citizens will be able to pay without cumbersome bureaucratic procedures.”

Bahaaeddin Abu Shokka, head of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, told reporters that the Criminal Procedures Law is scheduled to be discussed next week.

“The law was ready for the 2017/2018 session but given that season’s heavy legislative agenda it was delayed,” said Abu Shokka.

“The law is based on the principle that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. It was drafted to ensure defendants are guaranteed a fair trial and will only be placed in pre-trial detention as a last option.”

Abu Shokka also said an amended personal affairs law had already been sent to Al-Azhar, the National Council for Women, the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood and the National Council for Human Rights for their comments.

Al-Gibali Al-Maraghi, head of parliament’s Manpower Committee, told reporters legislation affecting children will top its agenda.

“We will hold a meeting next week to review laws referred by the government,” said Al-Maraghi.

“Young people will be free to enter the workforce when they are 18, and not 15 as was earlier proposed. The labour law will also contain a chapter on seasonal workers, making sure they are fully covered by national health insurance and pension systems, and will set stringent conditions before workers can strike, a necessary provision given delicate security and economic conditions.”

Head of the Housing Committee Alaa Wali announced his committee will review three new laws.

“The first is on settling construction offences, the second on regulating landlord-tenant relationships and the third will facilitate and lower the real estate tax.”

“Millions in Egypt are eager to see these three laws passed because they could end a plethora of problems they face in their daily lives.

“The law on construction offences will be passed in the coming session - the committee has already finalised 90 per cent of its articles,” said Wali.

“Violations of Egypt’s construction code are endemic and must be settled once and for all in a fair way.”

The same is true for the 60-year-old law regulating tenant-landlord relationships.

“Most of the amendments have been drafted by MPs and the government should move ahead to reach common ground with them,” said Wali.

Abdel-Moneim Al-Oleimi, an independent MP and a member of the Housing Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the landlord-tenant relationship law, issued in 1964, needs to be amended to address the injustices done to landlords who have long suffered the effects of rents being frozen.”

“Draft amendments of the law propose an annual 25 per cent rise in rents for four years, after which the relationship will be governed by the civil code.”

* A version of this article appears in print in the 11 October, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: More debates to come 

Short link: