• 02:25
  • Wednesday ,20 January 2016

Egypt parliament's first job: reviewing 340 laws

By-Ziad Bahaa-Eldin-Ahramonline



Wednesday ,20 January 2016

Egypt parliament's first job: reviewing 340 laws

As of January 10th, the parliament has 15 days to review all 340 laws issued over the past two years. Under Article 156 of the constitution, it must decide whether to endorse or reject them.

Given the tight deadline and difficulty of reversing the effects of most laws, it will not be able to substantively debate each one, but will most likely approve the majority of them en masse, with the exception of a few that a majority of MPs have already agreed to reject.
In light of this complex situation, I attempt here to offer a brief guide to the laws issued from January 18, 2014 to the end of 2015, to help readers follow the discussion and form their own opinions.
Of the 340 laws under review, 156 deal with the state budget and the budgets of dozens of state agencies. There’s no need to debate these laws now that the fiscal year is half over.
Another 16 laws deal with various transitional issues, from elections to daylight savings time—these too are moot.
Eighteen laws regulate gas and oil drilling concessions. Largely formulaic, these need not be reviewed, especially that the nature of the concessions makes altering the terms difficult.
Eleven laws make various amendments to social insurance and pension regimes. Once more, these can be repealed only with difficulty because of the effect on citizens’ rights and status. And anyway, the government has repeatedly announced its intention to introduce a new, comprehensive law on social insurance.
In short, at least 201 laws are likely be endorsed with little to no debate due to the difficulty of reversing their effects.
Of the remaining laws, eight address taxes, another eight agriculture, eight the environment and energy, and 22 economic matters.
Nineteen regulate various aspects of the armed forces and national security and defense councils; 17 addressed police and traffic issues; 13 concerned penal law and criminal procedure; 4 were related to professional matters; and another 4 addressed university regulations. Sixteen laws touched on disparate topics.
Finally, 30 laws were apparently issued but not published in the Official Gazette. These must be put to the new parliament for approval, but not necessarily within the narrow 15-day period under consideration here as they may treated as in-issued legislation.
This is the briefest of overviews of the first and most serious duty of the new parliament. As noted above, it has no choice but to accept the majority of these laws without any substantive discussion. However there are a few laws—15 in my opinion—that the assembly should examine more closely because they deviate from the constitution or infringe the public interest. These are:
1. The investment law (Law 17/2015), due to the severe disruption it caused in the investment climate.
2. Law 18/2015 on the civil service. This should not be passed without parliamentary oversight because it will have a substantial, lasting impact on millions of citizens and society as a whole.
3. Law 27/2015 on special economic zones; making only minor adjustments to the old law, this legislation does not provide a sound legal and regulatory framework for the development of the Suez Gulf zone.
4. Law 89/2015 on the dismissal of heads of independent regulatory agencies, which lacks specific rules governing such dismissals.
5. Law 128/2014 (“the law of other things”), which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on civil society, the media, and academic and research activities; it also levies disproportionately stiff criminal penalties for offenders.
6. Laws 41/2014, 8/2015, 21/2015, and 94/2015, which criminalize various acts related to security; the acts criminalized are not clearly, unequivocally defined and the prescribed penalties violate the principle of proportionality.
7. Laws 130/2014 and 136/2014, which allow the referral of civilians to military tribunals and are thus unconstitutional.
8. Laws 15/2014, 52/2014, 134/2014, and 3/2015 which regulate universities to restrict students, staff, and faculty members’ right of expression and peaceful protect and reinstate the old system under which university deans are appointed rather than elected.
As for Law 107/2013, which restricts the right of peaceful protest, despite my previous and repeated objections to it, is not included here because it was issued prior to the adoption of the constitution on January 18, 2014.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean the law is sacrosanct and must be endorsed by the parliament. In fact, it should be repealed, but through the regular parliamentary review mechanisms.
When the framers of the 2014 constitution allowed the parliament only 15 days to review laws issued in its absence they no doubt did not imagine that two full years would pass before the assembly was convened, or that such a huge number of non-pressing laws would be issued.
Nevertheless, while we need to avoid further legal and constitutional confusion, the laws listed above must be reviewed because they constitute flagrant violations of the constitution, impede economic performance, or infringe principles of justice.
To close, I’d like to thank my colleague, young lawyer Abd al-Ghani Sayyed, for his help in collecting and analyzing the laws under review.