On 27 July the House of Representatives announced it would adjourn for a two-month summer recess following six and a half months of plenary meetings.
Speaker Hanafi Gibali said of the House’s first legislative season that despite the pandemic MPs had been keen to spare no effort in discussing Egypt’s political, economic, and social problems. In its first legislative season, said Gibali, the House held constructive debates over the state’s budget and socio-economic development plans.
Gibali commended MPs for using all the supervisory tools at their disposal and for giving voice to the opinions of their constituents.
“The House’s committees also produced a significant report on new legislation,” said Gibali. “The House discussed laws on treasury bills, Islamic bonds (sukuk), bankruptcy measures, notarisation and documentation fees, and the use of irrigation water,” said the report. “In terms of social protection and health care, the House also passed legislation toughening penalties for female genital mutilation and establishing a fund for medical emergencies.”
In the area of national defence and security the report focused on the fact that the House had amended the Civil Service Law to permit the dismissal of state employees who espouse radical ideologies or are members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
The House had also passed a law toughening penalties for sexual harassment, and approved three extensions of the emergency law.
The report also noted that MPs had used the first weeks of the parliamentary session to summon 29 cabinet ministers to deliver policy statements.
In a workshop held on 4 August, Ashraf Rashad, deputy chairman of Mostaqbal Watan (Future of the Homeland) Party, said the 13 political parties represented in parliament had exercised their role freely and effectively.
Essam Hilal, assistant secretary-general of Mostaqbal Watan, said “MPs were keen to reject laws that imposed new burdens on citizens.” He cited the fact that a “majority of MPs teamed up to postpone the implementation of the notarisation and documentation law because of the hefty fees it was going to impose on citizens.”
“MPs also acted on public opinion in toughening penalties for sexual harassment and female genital mutilation.”
With regards to Egypt’s second chamber, Senate Speaker Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Razek said senators had acted “to boost democracy in Egypt, taking into account constitutional developments and the hopes and aspirations of citizens”.
The Senate was also involved in discussing a raft of social and economic laws. “We were keen to discuss these laws in depth and ensure they reflected social and economic realities,” said Abdel-Razek.
He noted that there had been close cooperation between the Senate and the government of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and that “cabinet ministers were keen to come to the Senate and its committees to explain their policies and answer questions.”
A report said the Senate had held 21 sessions over 38 working hours.
According to Hilal, once the Senate’s internal bylaws were passed in April the Senate got down to work and “took a very big step by rejecting draft amendments to the Thanawiya Amma [High School] law”, forcing the minister of education to redraft the legislation.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Alaa Fouad said the Senate had done a great job in its first legislative season, even though it was short. “The Senate’s discussion of laws, particularly the Thanawiya Amma law, made an important contribution to parliamentary life,” said Fouad. He said he expected the next legislative season, scheduled to begin in October, would see the government referring new legislation on insurance, competition protection, and the regulation of public notary offices to the second chamber.
Rashad said the House of Representatives is expected to move to the New Administrative Capital by the end of this year and would be followed by the Senate once construction of its new headquarters is completed.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly