Now that the Senate Law was passed last June, a higher chamber of Egypt’s parliament will soon be voted in, fulfilling thus the constitutional requirement of a bicameral parliament. We are entitled to read and comprehend the Senate Law including its prerogatives, the role it plays on the Egyptian legislative scene, and the procedures related to it. Let me first point out that this article interrupts my weekly Problems on Hold series, since the issue I tackle today is of utmost importance, and is open for transparent public debate.
I will here present a reading of the Senate Law, leaving out the procedural aspects and focusing on the legislative features. In fact, I have long hoped for Egypt’s legislative structure to be complete through addition of a higher chamber to parliament, to work as its legislative safety valve through looking into the bills presented to the lower house. Such is the case with many democracies across the world. I invite you to join me in a reading of the Senate Law.
- The Senate shall consist of 300 members; 200 members shall be elected through public secret ballot, and 100 members shall be appointed by the President. At least 10 per cent of the seats (30 seats) shall be allotted to women. Half the elected seats (100 seats) shall be elected on an individual basis, and the other half (100 seats) through a list system. There shall be four closed lists; two shall include 15 seats each, and the two other 35 seats each. Both independent and party candidates may run for any of the seats, bearing in mind that a list must include 20 women candidates.
- For a member to retain his or her place in the Senate, he or she must retain the entitlement based on which they were elected, whether independent or party candidate. If a member loses this entitlement or changes party, he or she loses membership in the Senate through a decision endorsed by a two-third majority of members.
- The Senate’s term is five Gregorian years that start on the day of the Senate’s first meeting after election. The new Senate shall be elected during the 60 days that precede the end of its predecessor’s term.
- The Senate shall be charged with studying and suggesting what it sees fit to root democracy and support social peace and the basic elements of the society, as well as its supreme values, rights and public freedoms. The Senate shall be consulted on suggestions to amend articles of the Constitution; the general plan of economic and social development; conciliation and coalition treaties, and all treaties relating to the sovereignty of the State; draft laws and bills that complement the Constitution referred to the Senate by the President or the House of Representatives; and issues referred to it by the President regarding the State’s public policy or its policy in Arab or foreign affairs.
- Candidature of members of the Armed Forces, Police, General Intelligence and Administrative Control shall not be accepted. Likewise members of the judicial authority, ministers and their deputies, governors and their deputies, as well as heads and members of independent authorities or supervisory apparatuses shall not run for membership of the Senate.
- Voters shall elect members of the Senate according to the number designated for each constituency that runs individual candidates, and they shall elect one list for each constituency designated with the list system, each voter according to his or her constituency.
- The President of the Republic shall appoint one third of the members of the council (100 members) after the outcome of the vote is announced and prior to the start of the parliamentary round. The same conditions of candidature shall be respected, and at least 10 per cent of the seats appointed shall be allotted to women.
- No criminal procedure may be taken against a member of the Senate—except in cases of flagrante delicto—without prior permission from the council… A member must present to the Senate a financial disclosure once he or she becomes a Senate member, at the end of their terms, and at the end of every year.
- A Senate member may not at the same time be a member of the House of Representatives, government or local council. A Senate member may also not at the same time fill the post of governor, deputy to governor, head or member of independent authority or supervisory apparatus, or mayor, or official village or district elder, or member of any committee emergent from them.
- The Prime Minister as well as his deputies, ministers and members of the government are not accountable to the Senate. PS: this means that the Senate is not granted authority over the executive authority.
- During the dissolution period of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall assume all administrative and financial responsibilities of the Senate Speaker and bureau. During the dissolution period of both houses of parliament, the Premier shall assume all financial and administrative responsibilities granted to the speakers and bureaux of both houses. PS: I paused before this particular clause, even though I am fully aware that the bill was scrutinised before it became a law that represents the will of the people. But I cannot help wondering how the Premier, the head of the executive authority, himself undertake financial and administrative prerogatives related to the legislative authority? Would it not have been more apt for the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, or those who nominate him or her to assume this responsibility?
10 July 2020