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Parliament’s insignificant debates interfere with personal lives as legislative tasks linger - Daily News Egypt

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Parliament’s insignificant debates interfere with personal lives as legislative tasks linger

MPs have been talking about a number of "illogic" issues, lack understanding of responsibilities, say experts

Between trying to tell people what to wear and what to name their children, members of parliament (MPs) have not stopped stirring controversy by discussing odd laws to be implemented, which had the public raise many questions on the validity of MPs’ qualifications and whether or not they are aware of their parliamentary roles.

At a different time of the year, a number of members issued several legal suggestions and bills that stirred public controversy because of their unconstitutionality. These bills were held against the members, portraying them as unqualified people.

Sometimes some MPs suggest random and illogic legal ideas or bills that undermine the parliament’s position and raises questions on its role regarding citizens and the state.

The parliament is the legislative authority of the country and is considered the third branch of the government. Major decisions should be forwarded to parliament for discussion prior to the president’s ratification and after the cabinet’s approval.

Weeks ago, MP Badeer Abdel Aziz, a member in the parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee, submitted a bill that stipulates preventing parents from naming their children foreign names, or else they would be imprisoned and/or pay a fine.

The bill stipulated that if the parents insisted on naming their children foreign names, they will be have to pay a fine that is not less than EGP 500 and not more than EGP 5,000, as well as a prison sentence of not less than 24 hours and not more than 6 months, and/or one of these two penalties.

The bill that has become known in media as the “foreign names” bill stirred huge controversy, as the issue was seen as restricting people’s freedom. Furthermore, there are no articles in any law in any country that puts such restrictions on people names—not even in the constitution, so this law is unfounded and biased.

Daily News Egypt spoke to political analysts and sought their comment on such suggestions and whether introducing such legislations would impact the parliament’s credibility or not.

Amr Rabie, the vice president of Al-Ahram Center for Political Studies, commented that such bills or legal suggestions reflect MPs’ lack of experience and their incapability to finding meaningful ways to engage with society, which implies they are concerned with issues that do not reflect the reality of Egyptian society.

When asked if the members would be ordered to make such suggestions to distract people from certain issues in the country, Rabie said he doesn’t think so, because it seems like those members are creating work for themselves. He continued, “I wish that they might be ordered with tasks, as this could be better instead of leaving them to their own decisions.”

The analyst said that there are around 35 laws related to the state’s transitional phase, which was the main goal of the parliament’s resumption in 2016, to fairly discuss and approve them. Besides these laws, citizens are also demanding the drafting of new specific laws.

“However, MPs are not working enough to finalise these laws, and proof of so is that we can see that there have only been four or five approved legislations since its first session in 2016,” Rabie said.

Since its first session in 2016, the parliament approved a number of old and new laws, where most were passed without proper communal dialogue with all concerned parties, a result of which is the presence of unconstitutional articles today. In addition to this, there are also a number of major issues—both laws and agreements that need discussion—that have been pending for months in the parliament.

An example of a law that was passed in parliament but that still awaits the president’s ratification was the Non Governmental Organisation Law, passed in parliament five months ago. This law was also passed amid criticism of NGOs owners and employees, who believed that the law includes harsh restrictions that could eliminate the work of NGOs in Egypt altogether.

Moreover, the Egyptian-Saudi maritime demarcation, which sought transferring the sovereignty of the Islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, remains pending discussion since November.

Gamal Zaharan, a former MP and political analyst, also agreed with Rabie’s comments about the members’ qualification and creativity, as he asserted that random bills suggested by the members show that they are not well-schooled and are not fully aware of Egyptian society and its requirements.

Zahran suggest that they would draft bills that could help citizens with the current issues, such as price hikes, as well as creating initiatives for fighting corruption.

“What the members are doing will impact citizens’ perception of parliament and it seems like they are distracting the public from focusing on the country’s major issues, he added.

Previously, member of the Legislative Committee Salah Hasaballah commented on Abdel Aziz’s bill, saying that parents are fully free to name their children as they want. He added that bills such as these distort the parliament’s image, as this is not what people are waiting for from this important body.

The bill stirred controversy over what it could possibly add to society and what the members are really doing in parliament. Some of the issues raised were whether MPs are really qualified for parliamentary seats or not and to what extent drafting such laws would be constitutional.

Approving important laws, such as the Medical Insurance Law, as well as local administration and amendments to civil conditions, is what people are expecting from parliament members, Hasaballah said.

Experts depicted Abdel Aziz and members drafting such legislations, as figures seeking publicity and media appearance.

Abdel Aziz previously defended his bill, saying that it is a continuation of an old law (the Personal Status Law) and that he made some amendments to it to align it with the new Egyptian constitution, especially with Article 80 on the rights of the child.

However, Article 80 only stipulates that the state is committed to protect children from all forms of violence—be it abuse, ill-treatment, or sexual and commercial exploitation—and did not mention anything about foreign names.

Giving children foreign or “modern” names was never considered taboo in any study or law and was not identified as either a source of physical or psychological harm to children.

Prior to this bill, another MP suggested a law to legalise engagements, by requiring both sides to signing a contract, so that the rights of the two parties would be guaranteed and to impose a penalty on the party that breaks the engagement off and harms the other party.

Zahran commented on this, saying that “engagement is a tradition where we give partners the time to know each other well without any restrictions.”

Implementation of such laws will prevent people from having freedom; therefore, these bills never pass legislations, Zahran concluded.

In December, MP Shadia Thabet, a member of the parliament’s Health Affairs Committee, announced the preparation of a draft law that bans the travel of doctors and engineers, except after 10 years of service in state hospitals since graduation, but dropped the proposal after it stirred the anger of doctors.

These bills came within numerous other bills, from suggesting the dropping of citizenship from people who have been proven to take part in terror attacks to preventing females from wearing cropped jeans. These bills made it unclear whether the parliament’s role is to regulate the state law, achieve citizens’ demands, or interfere and put restriction in people’s personal life.

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