Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal said on Wednesday that the number of draft laws passed during the current parliamentary legislative term was 217, composed of 2,338 articles, which he said was the highest number of legislations to pass in the history of Egypt since 1866.
The second legislative term kicked off in October 2016 and ended on Wednesday, following the parliament’s approval of the state’s general budget.
Article 115 of Egypt’s Constitution states: “The President of the Republic shall invite the House of Representatives for its annual legislative term before the first Thursday of October. Failing such invitation, the parliament is required by the Constitution to meet on the stated day. The legislative term shall continue for at least nine months. The President of the Republic shall bring each session to close with the approval of the parliament. This shall not be permissible except after the state’s general budget has been approved.”
The parliament worked on several laws which stirred controversy and started tensions, said political analyst and former Member of Parliament (MP) Gamal Zahran.
Laws such as the Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) law, the Judicial authorities law or media law were not drafted upon consultations from stakeholders, Zahran told Daily News Egypt.
During the first week of assembly, the parliament started discussions of a draft law aimed to regulate the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Egypt amid local and international concerns of oppressing civil society.
The discussions came following a court’s decision to freeze assets and ban travel of several NGOs’ founders and civil society workers, who had long called for a new NGO law to allow more freedom of assembly and activism.
On 29 November 2016, the parliament passed the controversial NGO Law with a two-thirds majority of votes, which received wide criticism from several local NGOs, as well as international concerns.
The law stipulates that it must contain bylaws before it could be applied or implemented, which will be decided by the Cabinet within two months following the president’s ratification. The Parliament’s Social Solidarity Committee will continue communication with the Cabinet to finalise this issue.
Furthermore, the law gives one year for NGOs from the date of the issuance of the bylaws to adjust their conditions with the new articles; otherwise, it will be closed.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ratified the law on 30 May.
The law impacts around 47,000 local associations and 100 foreign workers in Egypt.
One month after the approval of the NGO Law, the Parliament passed another anticipated law, which introduced regulations for press and media institutions.
Before the Parliament passed the law, several media professionals had worked on drafting a Unified Media Law (UML), which stakeholders considered to be one of the most progressive draft laws, as it would have addressed media ethics, journalists’ imprisonment, and press freedom.
Although the press community had been awaiting the issuance of the UML, the Parliament passed another law to establish media regulatory bodies, which would be followed by a second law to regulate practicing media in general.
The law established three media regulatory bodies for media and press affairs: the Supreme Council for Media Organisations (SCMO); the National Press Authority (NPA), to replace the Press Council and monitor financial and administrative performance of national newspapers; and the National Media Authority (NMA), to replace the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU).
The law also grants Al-Sisi the right to select the heads of the three media regulatory bodies.
Another decision that stirred controversy, particularly tensions between the legislative and the judicial branches, was the Judicial Authority Law amendments, which the Parliament passed in April.
The amendments to the law grants Al-Sisi the right to select the head of each authority out of the three most senior ones nominated by the respective general assemblies.
However, the State Council rejected the amendments, accusing it of violating the principle of separation of powers.
The council further said that the draft law could be unconstitutional, especially in light of its preparation without the consultation of judges, as stated in the Constitution.
In May, tensions escalated when the State Council decided, contrary to the latest law, to only appoint Judge Yehia Dakroury as head of the council for this year, instead of selecting three candidates for the position.
Moreover, the Parliament stirred further controversy when discussing the Egyptian-Saudi maritime demarcation, despite the Administrative Court’s decision to annul the agreement earlier.
Discussing the Red Sea islands agreement particularly caused tensions between members of parliament (MPs), as some were opposing the discussion since a court decision was announced, while some defended their stance of discussing the agreement as their constitutional right.
The Parliament approved the agreement on 14 June, transferring the sovereignty of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.
One day before the conclusion of the second legislative term, the Parliament approved a draft law concerning a National Elections Commission (NEC), following reported conflicts between MPs about Article 34 of the law, which stipulates the withdrawal of judicial supervision on elections in the year 2024.
MP Haitham Al-Hariri earlier told Daily News Egypt that he had filed a request for a revote on Article 34 of the draft law, adding that the number of MPs who voted for the article was far less than the required two-thirds majority.
Al-Hariri also questioned the accuracy of the voting procedure, as it was by raising hands, adding “nobody could tell whether the approval was with two-thirds majority or not.”
The MP had earlier questioned the voting by raising hands several times, which occurred in most of the voting procedures.