Egypt's parliament: Legislative overload

Gamal Essam El-Din , Friday 14 Jun 2019

MPs grappled with a host of new laws this week

Egyptian Parliament

On Sunday parliament approved amendments to six laws regulating the performance of judicial authorities — the Supreme Constitutional Court (Law 48/1979), the Administrative Prosecution Authority (117/1958), the State Cases Authority (57/1963), Military Justice (25/1966), the Judicial Authority (46/1972) and the State Council (l47/1972).

Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs the laws were necessary to implement constitutional amendments passed by the House of Representatives on 16 April and approved by public referendum on 23 April.

Bahaaeddin Abu Shokka, head of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, said the draft legislation would standardise the selection of heads of judicial authorities in line with April’s constitutional amendments.

“The selection from now on will not be based on the old principle of seniority,” said Abu Shokka. He argued the revised laws will reinforce judicial independence and help avoid any overlap in mandates.

April’s referendum covered 12 constitutional articles, four of which — articles 185, 189, 190 and 193 — deal with judicial authorities, the selection of the prosecutor-general and the State Council and the naming of the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

As far as the latter is concerned, said Abu Shokka, the amended article allows the chairman of the court to be selected by the president from among the court’s deputy heads.

The court’s commissioners will also be named by the president based on recommendation from the court’s chairman and according to the will of the court’s general assembly.

“This does not violate the independence of the court nor infringes upon its powers,” said Abu Shokka. “It gives the president a symbolic right to name the head based on nominations by members of the general assembly.”

“The Constitutional Court judges approved the new system which replaces the rigid principle of seniority with selection criteria based on quality and efficiency.”

The same applies to the prosecutor-general.

“Changes to the Judicial Authority Law, in line with amended Article 189, state that the prosecutor-general be named by the president from three candidates nominated by the Higher Council for Judicial Authorities, and that the prosecutor-general’s term in office be four years.”

The two laws regulating the Administrative Prosecution Authority and the State Cases Authority were also redrafted in line with changes to Article 185 of the constitution allowing the president to name the authorities’ heads from several candidates.

“A Higher Council for Judicial Authorities will be created with the president as its head. In the event of the president’s absence, leadership of the council will be delegated,” said Abu Shokka. “All judges approved the new system.”

The State Council Law has been redrafted in line with amended Article 190. According to Abu Shoka, “the redraft details the mandate of the State Council, including settling administrative disputes, disciplinary cases and appeals and revising draft laws and decrees.”

The law regulating the performance of military courts (44/1966) was redrafted in line with changes to Article 204.

“The redraft states that civilians can be tried before military courts only in cases involving crimes against military installations, in military zones and along borders, involving military equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, documents, secrets, funds and factories.”

On the same day parliament voted in favour of increasing public pensions — state pensions and those of public sector employees — by 15 per cent.

“The increase will be effective from 1 July 2019 with the costs covered by the Ministry of Finance,” said a report prepared by parliament’s Manpower Committee.

A second law, increasing pensions of retired military personnel by 15 per cent, was also approved.

Gibali Al-Maraghi, head of the Manpower Committee, said a bonus of seven per cent for state employees who fall under the Civil Service Law, and 10 per cent for public employees outside the law, had also been approved by the committee.

“The new bonuses will help state employees in the face of increased living costs precipitated by the IMF-inspired economic reform programme,” he said.

Parliament also signalled the approval of changes to Law 182/1960. A report prepared by the Health Committee said the amendments were necessary to clamp down on drugs and narcotics which have recently appeared in the Egyptian market.

The changes, said Abdel-Aal, were necessary to protect the public, particularly young people, from the dangers new drugs pose to physical and psychological health.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 June, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Legislative overload

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