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Constitution: Local administration - Daily News Egypt

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Constitution: Local administration

The seventh part of Daily News Egypt’s constitutional draft analysis series

Decentralisation is a sensitive topic in post-revolutionary Egypt. One side of the argument is that the country is too Cairo-centred and more freedoms for local governance will develop areas outside of the capital.

Opponents of decentralisation argue greater autonomy for local administrative units is detrimental to national security and unity. The latter opinion is expressed in the way the Constituent Assembly handled local administration in the draft constitution.

The draft does not allow for the election of governors or mayors. It only provides for the election of local councils with little power, which can be dissolved by the central government.

Article 186 specifies the state is divided into several local administrative units and that each unit can contain one or more village or city. It does not mention the currently existing system of local authorities such as governorates, cities, and municipalities. It also leaves the formation of new units to the regulations of the law without further detail.

The running of these units is left to local councils, made up mostly of representatives elected for four-year terms. It specifies that representatives of the executive in Cairo are to be appointed to the council, although the appointed members get no voting privileges. Candidates for local council seats must be Egyptian citizens, at least 21 years of age and enjoying full civil and political rights.

The jurisdiction and powers of these local councils is described very ambiguously in Article 188 as “all which is in the interest of their local units.” The draft empowers them to create and run local utilities services, as well as be responsible for local economic, social and health affairs. The details of this are all left to the regulation of the law and there is no mention of the local councils having legislative powers or oversight over the local executive branch.

The draft gives the central government the power to dissolve these local councils, despite the majority of their members being elected.

Article 189 specifies that these councils’ decisions regarding their local units are final and that the executive branch may only interfere if the councils take decisions affecting other areas or “hurt national interest.” The State Council being tasked with handling disputes between the executive branch and the local councils.

However, Article 193 empowers the central government or parliament with dissolving these councils, leaving the matter again to the regulation of the law and only banning the dissolving of the councils through an administrative decision. This leaves room for other types of dissolution, including through a law or court order.

Local councils are allowed to levy local taxes and fees as per Article 190 but may not levy tolls on movement between two or more local units. Article 191 obliges the state to provide all local units with fair distribution of resources and utilities.

The councils get to draft their own budgets, but the central government may interfere to add extra expenses relating to public services it provides, according to Article 192.

The draft does not specify if the councils are legislative or executive, but implies the former as there is mention of local executive branches. Article 195 mentions governors but only says their selection method is left to the law.

Electing local governors and lower level executives such as mayors and heads of municipalities and neighbourhoods was one of the demands of the 25 January 2011 uprising. The draft constitution only mentions electing local councils that have very little powers, leaving out election of governors and mayors.

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