Egypt's parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal (Photo: Al Ahram)
Egypt's parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs in a plenary session on Sunday morning that the new NGO law was not drafted by the government as a response to foreign pressure.
"Legislations in Egypt comes only out of national interests and never as an echo of foreign voices," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "when parliament passed its own version of the NGO law in November 2016, Egypt was facing many challenges, particularly in security, but now Egypt has become a strong state, and never accept that its legislation comes under foreign pressure."
Abdel-Aal said the new NGO law meets 99 percent of the demands of the civil society community.
"Most of all, it eliminates all freedom-restricting penalties and reinforces the role of NGOs in achieving the country's development plans," said Abdel-Aal.
Abdel-Aal's word came a response to some leftist MPs who announced that they will vote "no" to the law upon the grounds that "it comes under foreign pressure."
Diaaeddin Dawoud, a member of the leftist 25-30 bloc, said the new law comes to serve "the NGO kiosks" which receive dollars from foreign circles to implement "political agendas" in Egypt.
Mostafa Bakri, an independent MP, also said he is against the newly-amended law "because it opens the door wide for NGOs who send reports to foreign circles to incite against Egypt."
"Remember that in 2008 the American ambassador in Cairo gave $1 million to local NGOs to implement political agendas," said Bakri, adding that "political money has become a very dangerous weapon to spread chaos in certain societies, particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union."
Mohamed Abu Hamed, deputy chairman of parliament's social solidarity committee, said the new law comes as a result of a national dialogue in which 1,164 NGOs participated.
"In the end came this new law which achieves 99 percent of the demands of these NGOs," said Abu Hamed.
Abdel-Hadi El-Qasabi, the head of parliament's social solidarity committee and leader of the majority coalition, said, "When parliament drafted its version of the NGO law in 2016, Egypt was passing through very hard conditions and very serious security, social and local conditions."
"But now, after all of these conditions have changed and Egypt has become a strong and stable country, there comes this new NGO law to help Egypt achieve its development plans," said El-Qasabi.
El-Qasabi said the new law significantly differs from the current one (70/2017).
"It establishes a central unit with the Ministry of Social Solidarity to be entrusted with supervising NGOs instead of the parliament-affiliated apparatus imposed by the current law," said El-Qasabi, also indicating that "the new law allows foreigners to increase their contributions to NGOs from 10 percent to 25 percent, not to mention that it eliminates all freedom-restricting articles."
The law was approved in principle by parliament on Sunday.