57% of Egyptians support draft protest law: Poll

Ahram Online, Wednesday 13 Nov 2013

According to a new poll, a majority of Egyptians support the controversial protest law, as well as a planned counter-terrorism law

Riot policemen detain a protester
Riot policemen detain a protester during a rally in support of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo's Tahrir Square October 1, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

A majority of Egyptians support a controversial draft law regulating protests, according to a recent poll.

Baseera, a private polling organisation, found that 57 percent of Egyptians who had heard of the bill approve of it, while 62 percent approve another bill announced by authorities to fight terrorism.

The bill was passed to interim President Adly Mansour on Tuesday for review, according to presidential spokesman Ihab Badawy. Badawy said that the bill had been amended by the government after the cabinet received recommendations from the country's state council that it review several articles.

Badawy said the interim president would review the law’s content before formally issuing it, without giving a specific timeframe.

The state council said a ban on sit-ins in the bill should be lifted and a fine on violators of the law should be reduced, according to the Associated Press.

The amended version of the law has not been made public. But the first draft of the protest law stirred controversy among political parties and NGOS, who said the law was restricting Egyptians’ right to protest.

In October, Human Rights Watch said the bill would give “the police carte blanche to ban protests in Egypt" and would allow officers to use force to disperse them, "even when a single protester throws a stone."

On Wednesday, reacting to what he called a “heightened debate in Egypt on a draft law regulating protest,” the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon also said international human rights standards should form the basis of any new legislation, according to a statement published by his office.

According to the Baseera poll, the approval rating for passing the draft protest law ranges from 53 percent in Upper Egypt to 58 percent in Lower Egypt, and is at 62 percent in urban governorates.

The counter-terrorism bill, which was drafted by the interior ministry in September, garnered 55 percent support from those polled in Upper Egypt, 65 percent in Lower Egypt, and 68 percent in the urban governorates.

On Thursday, 20 Egyptian human rights organisations published a joint statement arguing that the counter-terrorism bill would reinstate the "police state" in Egypt if implemented.

According to the statement, the current bill broadens the definition of "terrorist acts" to those activities that are not essentially related to terrorism, including "disrupting the authorities from carrying out some of their activities," "[carrying out] acts which seek to hinder the implementation of the constitution or the law" and "preventing educational institutions from carrying out their work."

An "act of terrorism," as defined by the proposed bill, also extends to "any behaviour which damages the communications or information systems, the financial systems, or the national economy," the statement added.

Such broad provisions could open the way to harassment of "peaceful political opposition members, human rights activists, and a broad range of groups working to defend democracy and human rights," the human rights organisations stated.

Baseera said that the poll was conducted by phone on a sample of 1,964 individuals nationwide, on 30 and 31 October. It estimated the margin of error at less than 3 percent.


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