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Can Egypt's new parliament review 330 laws in 15 days?

According to Egypt's constitution, the country's newly elected parliament — meeting for the first time Jan. 10 — has only 15 days to review over 330 laws issued since the last parliament was dissolved.
Egypt's newly-elected parliament meets for its first session in Cairo on January 23, 2012. Islamist MPs took centre stage as Egypt's parliament met for the first time since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak, while their supporters massed outside to cheer the historic event. AFP PHOTO/POOL/ASMAA WAGUIH (Photo credit should read ASMAA WAGUIH/AFP/Getty Images)

CAIRO — Bureaucratic proceedings have been known to induce stupors, but things could get interesting after Egypt’s newly elected MPs take their oath of office Jan. 10.

This will be the first time the country’s legislators have convened in more than two years. The previous parliament was dissolved in July 2013 following the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi.

After the heat of recent parliamentary elections and controversy over parliament’s formation, it might be engaging to observe the 596 members try to reach consensus on more than 330 laws.

According to Article 156 of the Egyptian Constitution, in the absence of a parliament, the president can issue decrees that have the force of law. However, within 15 days of parliament sessions commencing, the new legislature must discuss and approve these laws.

After Morsi was ousted in 2013, Adly Mansour, who was head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, became interim president until Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected May 29, 2014. Egypt’s constitution stipulates that MPs shall review all of the decree laws that were issued since Jan. 18, 2014, when the constitution was approved in a popular referendum.

“The decrees that were adopted prior to that date will not be discussed by parliament,” constitutional jurist Essam al-Islambouli said.

The laws to be considered include 42 decree laws issued by Mansour and 289 items issued by current President Sisi, including 115 new pieces of legislation or legislative amendments, 158 decree laws consolidating the economic bodies’ budgets and 16 decrees that have yet to be published in the official gazette.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Islambouli confirmed parliament must discuss all of these laws within 15 days if it is committed to implementing the constitution.

Or, he said, the MPs could be intent on circumventing the constitution and decline to review them all.

The majority of the decree laws affecting economic life were issued under Sisi, including the Mortgage Financing Law (No. 55 of 2015), Law No. 63 of 2014 setting a maximum wage and the law to establish the Tahya Misr, or “Long Live Egypt,” fund designed, in part, to raise donations to provide jobs for youth. Also to be considered is Law No. 141 of 2014 to regulate microfinance activity and Law No. 27 of 2015 to amend the Law of Economic Zones of Special Nature. 

According to the parliament’s legislative schedule, presidential decree laws should first be reviewed by the MPs then discussed before finally being put up for approval.

“The best solution is that these decree laws, after being discussed, be distributed among the various special parliament committees to be reviewed, each according to its field of specialization,” Islambouli said. There are 19 parliamentary committees.

Mansour issued a number of decree laws that proved controversial. Law No. 107 of 2013 regulates the right to peaceful public meetings, processions and protests, which many human rights activists and representatives of political parties say are too restrictive. Opponents of Law No. 32 of 2014 — which concerns challenges to state contracts — claim it paves the way for corruption, as it prevents anyone from filing an appeal against a state contract.

But the real wrangling is expected to come over a law issued in March under Sisi that limits annual raises and bonuses for some state employees.

“The Civil Service Law will be the most controversial,” MP Basant Fahmy, who was appointed by Sisi, told Al-Monitor. “It stipulates a fixed 10% raise; however, this is not enough in light of the rising inflation.”

Fahmy said MPs are familiar with the laws to be discussed and might be able to get through them all if, as Islambouli suggested, the laws are distributed to the relevant, specialized committees.

Egypt’s parliament consists of 596 MPs, including 448 independents, 120 party-based MPs and 28 presidential appointees. In the recent elections, the Free Egyptians Party won 65 seats, Nation’s Future won 50, Wafd Party secured 46 and the National Progressive Unionist Party won two seats.

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