Despite the long wait, the local council law is still pending in parliament, leaving its future path vague, complicating the localities’ in Egypt, especially that the date of local council elections is expected to take place in February 2020.
Two weeks ago, Egypt’s parliament headed by Ali Abdel Aal rejected the draft law on local council, which was submitted by the government. Abdel Aal postponed the discussion of the law in general, justifying that the current time is not suitable.
“The local administration committee held extended sessions in discussing the draft law and listened to experts, specialists, governors, and others, noting that this committee includes associations and experts in the field of local work, who enriched these discussions,” said Abdel Aal.
He added that the law should have been discussed since the election of the parliament and after the constitution was passed, but other priorities made the parliament allocate a lot of time to discuss many legislations to complete the building of institutions in political and legislative terms.
The long-awaited 156-article is one of the most important legislations expected to be issued by the parliament preparing for holding local council elections, which were suspended for 12 years, as the last elections were held in 2008.
Members expressed their rejection for articles related to administrative distribution, the vote of Egyptians abroad in local elections, calling for the alignment of the law with the Constitution, and the proposed electoral system.
Ahmed Al-Sigini, head of the Local Administration Committee, said that around 70 meetings were held to discuss the law that aims to consolidate establishing administrative, financial, and economic decentralisation, and applying governance.
Regarding the new draft, Al-Sigini explained that it was outdated and did not keep pace with modern technological developments and changes.
He said that there were objections from several heads of political and parliamentary blocs in the matter of accepting the draft law, illustrating that the committee still did not received any official request from the government to amend the law.
However, he said that he learned that the government had feedback for the local administration law.
Several members of the parliament were divided over the draft law.
Parliamentary blocs of Nation’s Future, Free Egyptian, and Al-Wafd rejected it, while members of local administration committee supported the law that took two years of discussion.
Ayman Abu El-Ela, head of the parliamentary bloc of the Free Egyptians Party, was among those who rejected the law, saying it is not possible to hold local elections under Article 180 of the Constitution. According to him, the law legitimises discrimination through representing women by just 25%, a percentage that cannot be guaranteed in individual elections (the law requires 75% of the absolute list and 25% of the individual). In addition, he stated that 50% of workers and peasants demanded an amendment.
Accordingly, the new law stipulates that elections are 100% based on the list system.
Abu El-Ela also refereed to another obstacle in implementing the law, related to the participation of Egyptians abroad in voting in the local council elections, explaining that it is not possible to send the papers of 40,000 committees to each Egyptian embassy and consulate in the world, noting that his party’s approval of the law is conditional on these amendments.
For this part, Abdel Aal commented that the law already excluded some communities, noting that the constitutional text related to people’s representation in the council needs to be amended, saying that he warned people about these articles several times.
Abu El-Ela said that approval of the law was conditional to returning it to the local administration committee to amend some articles.
He stated that the new draft law gives governors wide terms of reference and powers, as well as providing local councils with tools and oversight powers such as withdrawing confidence or interrogating people.
Member of Parliament (MP) Ashraf Rashad, head of the Future National Party, said he rejected the bill, elaborating that his party was keen on issuing the law, but the draft law had constitutional problems, such as the way of implementing the decentralisation of the government in light of the current of situation of the localities.
He also pointed that there is a political split in the law, with the ability of parties to contest local councils and the parliament elections within one year, as he considered a difficult experience for parties to run both in one year.
Soliman Wahdan, undersecretary of parliament stressed on the need to return the law to the committee to address a number of problems, which include the administrative part which comprises many overlaps, emphasising that this law does not keep pace with the solution of the problems prevalent in the localities.
“We still need urban planning, separating the large overlaps between local centres and units, and also demarcating the borders between the provinces, as everyone should benefit from state’s wealth,” he said.
He also highlighted the necessity of having a thorough preparation for local elections by political parties through preparing good cadres and then working to discuss the law during the coming period.
On the other hand, a member of the Local Administration Committee, Mohamed Attiya Al-Fayoumi, affirmed that the draft law presented aligns with the constitution. “There are no constitutional violations in the law,” he said, noting that the law has received its right in discussion in the committee.
He also said that committee worked on the law in the presence of some advisers of the State Council and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
Besides, Al-Fayoumi said that delaying the law is against the constitution.
“Some people do not want the law to come to light at the present time so that local elections could not be held before the elections for the parliament, which will have a negative impact on some representatives in their constituencies, because they promised people to support them in the localities. ”
Secretary of the Local Administration Committee Mona Gaballah said that the draft law was constitutional, excluding the flaws of the previous law, noting that former ministers and consultants from the State Council and senior legal figures attended the committee meetings.
Gaballah said that the law is supposed to be returned to the committee again to discuss some of the amendments demanded by the members.
She added the committee would not accept the cancellation of the law that it worked on for around two years, saying that if the parliament will discuss new draft, they will request making amendments to the basic law prepared by the committee instead.
“It is not possible to cancel a law that took from this committee all this effort, especially since the committee came out with the draft law after discussions and proposals from four laws that were submitted by the members, in addition to the government project,” she said.
The discussion came after several years of delay, and while there was already a report prepared by a joint committee over the law.
The report was drafted on 17 December after several meetings of the committee.
According to the report, a government-drafted law aimed at regulating the performance and election of Egypt’s local councils was referred to parliament in November 2016. It also provided a system to be followed in holding the local councils elections.
The committee said in the report that the local administration law organises elections for local councils for its urgent importance to monitor the executive bodies in the governorates. It also pinpointed its role in combating and reducing corruption, along with regulating administrative and financial affairs in local units.
The new law, which is expected to be the first for local administration, provides for a transition to a decentralised system, which if properly implemented, will be a gateway to achieving a comprehensive development in the provinces and maximising their own resources, according to the report.
The new law is divided into several chapters: the basic components of the local administration system in Egypt, the local councils, and the financial resources.
The new draft included many advantages that were not available in the current old law No. 43 of 1979, which is outdated and does not keep pace with modern technological developments and changes. The new draft law gives governors wide terms of reference and powers, as well as providing local councils with tools and oversight powers that lead to withdrawal of confidence and interrogation.
It also targets the application of financial and administrative decentralisation as stipulated in the constitution. It will also install a timetable for the governance of local administration in Egypt and the achievement of positive visions towards the elimination of bureaucracy and corruption.