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NGOs and public look to parliamentary review period as chance to affect legal change - Daily News Egypt

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NGOs and public look to parliamentary review period as chance to affect legal change

EIPR delineates issues with 11 law passed since dissolution of parliament; poll shows citizens concerned about unemployment, education, price hikes

The recently convened parliament will soon begin to review all presidential decrees and governmental regulations invested with the full force of law that were issued since the establishment of the transitional government on 3 July 2013.

According to article 156 of the 2014 Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the parliament must review post-factum all regulations, statutes, and presidential orders that have been promulgated since the dissolution of the parliamentary body within 15 days of a new parliament’s re-convention. Failure to do so will empty these promulgations of their force of law.

The process is complicated due to the hundreds of orders and regulations that have been issued in the absence of the parliament. Attempts by governmental and non-governmental agencies to amend the legal infrastructure of Egypt have been attendant upon the election and inaugural congress of a new parliament.

Among the approximately 300 presidential decrees, there have been notable decrees that stringently curtailed political protest, curbed press freedoms, and given police sweeping powers.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi introduced anti-terror laws, the dismissal of heads of regulatory bodies decree, and the illicit gains reconciliation law among others.

Local NGOs have addressed the parliament on behalf of the people, calling attention to the main legally binding decrees and regulations that they believe are necessary to improve the economic, social, and human rights of citizens.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) announced Wednesday in a press conference the release of a new study called the “Guideline to the Egyptian Legislator”.

“Regardless of all the problems—with the parliament and its elections—we are happy to finally have this legislative authority,” EIPR member Amr Abdel Rahman said. “Because of the amount of laws that need to be revised by the parliament is impossible to be completed within the 15-day period stated by the constitution, some laws can be postponed but we selected the 11 laws that we believe cannot wait.”

EIPR launched a campaign called “Cannot Pass” to highlight “the most problematic laws” that affect a large sector of people and directly impact daily lives. Below are the 11 laws with their problems highlighted by EIPR:

  • On 12 March 2015 Al-Sisi approved amendments to the existing income tax law, which cancelled escalating taxes and disturbed tax justice.
  • The investment law issued on 12 March 2015 exaggerated incentives for investors, especially in inexpensive or free land allocation.
  • The presidential decree on heads of regulatory bodies issued on 11 July 2015 enabled the president to dismiss heads of regulatory bodies, in violation of the constitution’s guarantee of independence .
  • The immuring of state contracts issued on 22 April 2014 prevents appeals before court on state contracts.
  • The presidential decree on illicit gains reconciliation issued on 30 August 2015 prevents the enforcement of punitive measures on violators by allowing them to return embezzled funds during ongoing investigations.
  • Al-Azhar’s teaching staff was dismissed in a presidential decree issued on 22 October 2015 establishing broad and vague definitions of the grounds for dismissal.
  • The teaching staff in universities were dismissed in a presidential decree issued on 15 January 2015 establishing a similar precedent to the dismissal of Al-Azhar’s staff but in relation to university professors.
  • It was decided that university presidents were to be appointed by the president in a presidential decree issued on 24 June 2015 violating the concept of free and independent election of universities’ leading members.
  • The anti-terror law issued on 15 August 2015 includes a series of crimes broadly defined, threatens freedom of speech, and brings back emergency measures to restrict freedoms.
  • Prison regulations, amended by a presidential decree issued on 20 October 2015, enable prison guards to use force against prisoners and increases remand periods.
  • The punitive measures for lack of disclosure under the legal force of a presidential decree issued on 28 April 2015 amended the Penal Code to include a life prison term for anyone who knew about the illegal use of border tunnels and did not disclose this information.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Centre for Public Opinion Research “Baseera” released Tuesday the results of a recently conducted poll. It aimed to identify the most important issues Egyptians wish to see raised in parliamentary debates and to find out whether they wish to see the parliament sessions televised.

The survey said that 81% of the interviewees wanted to follow parliamentary sessions on TV. This comes just as the parliament decided to halt the live broadcast of its Monday session by state-owned media Soot Al-Shaab. The decision resulted in public criticism, including by MPs, calling the move a clear violation of transparency before the people.

Results showed that the people’s main concerns include the 24% as concerned with unemployment, 9% concerned with an increase in income and 9% with price hikes, 8% with education, 4% with sanitation infrastructure. Finally, 12% did not have an opinion.

The survey, self-funded by the centre, was conducted from 20 to 22 December via landline and mobile telephones with a total sample size of 1,527.  51% of those contacted participated in the survey. The margin of error was reported at  3%.

Baseera’s report further provided some details regarding the demographics of the interviewed sample only to conclude that the issues seemed to have similar priorities in urban and rural areas, as well as for people with different educational levels.

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