Everyone on Egypt’s legislative arena, media, and the public is now expectantly awaiting parliament’s new legislative session which will be the first since 2013 in which parliament operates as bicameral: Senate and House of Representatives. Egypt’s modern parliament started off bicameral in 1923, but went to being unicameral during a few intermittent periods of its history. In 2014, a new Constitution stipulated a unicameral parliament, but was amended in 2019 to allow for a Senate. In 2020, the Senate law was passed.
The Senate elections were held in August 2020, and preparations are ongoing for the runoff elections to take place this week, meaning that 200 of the Senate’s 300 members would be selected. The remaining 100 members would then be appointed by the President.
The House of Representatives ended its last parliamentary session last month, to resume during the first week of October 2020, in accordance with Article 115 of the Constitution which stipulates: “The President of the Republic shall invite the House of Representatives for its annual ordinary session before the first Thursday of October; failing such invitation, the House is required by the Constitution to meet on the stated day. The ordinary session shall continue for at least nine months. The President of the Republic shall bring each session to close with approval of the House. This shall not be permissible except after State’s General Budget has been approved.”
The figures announced by the General Secretariat of the House of Representatives indicate unprecedented achievements of the House in both its legislative and oversight capacities during its past five sessions in its current legislative term. It passed 887 laws, also various international treaties, pacts and demarcation of borders. The House of Representatives discussed, through its specialised committees and general committee, 4064 questions to government. Many members of parliament expressed their satisfaction with the parliamentary performance both in quality and quantity. The House of Representatives passed a number of significant laws that included the Investment Law, Personal Data Protection Law, Inheritance Law and Anti-Bullying Law. All these were among the achievements of the last parliamentary session. This is apart of its achievements during the four previous sessions, foremost among which were the Law to Governing the Building and Restoration of Churches and their Affiliated Buildings which was passed on 28 September 2016.
Despite this legislative drive, millions of Egyptians still await passage of important and pressing legislations that the House still holds or expects to receive, before the end of its current term. Now that the Senate is joining the legislative procedure in its capacity as the upper chamber of parliament, the Constitution and the Parliament Law require the Senate to look into bills before they are submitted to the House of Representatives. Among the pending bills are the following:
- Transitional Justice Law which Article 241 of the Constitution requires to be passed during the first parliamentary term. Article 241 reads: “In its first legislative term after enforcement of this Constitution, the House of Representatives shall issue a law on transitional justice that ensures revealing the truth, accountability, proposing frameworks for national reconciliation, and compensating victims, in accordance with international standards.”
- Commission for Prevention of Discrimination Law stipulated in Article 53 of the Constitution. Article 53 reads: “All citizens are equal before the Law. They are equal in rights, freedoms and general duties, without discrimination based on religion, belief, sex, origin, race, colour, language, disability, social class, political or geographic affiliation or any other reason. Discrimination and incitement of hatred is a crime punishable by Law. The State shall take necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination, and the law shall regulate creating an independent commission for this purpose.”
- Municipal Administration Law mentioned in Article 242 of the Constitution: “The existing system of municipal administration shall continue to be in force until the system stipulated herein is gradually implemented within five years of the date of entry into force of this Constitution, without prejudice to Article 180 thereof.”
- Comprehensive Health Insurance Law which in spite of its importance remains just an incomplete proposal, as described by some MPs.
- Old Rental Law for Non-Residential Property, which has been expected for a long time to achieve justice long overdue. Even though the government had submitted to the House of Representatives near mid-2019 a bill that was approved by the House’s Housing and Facilities Committee, the parliamentary session ended without a vote on the bill. Again the bill figured on the legislative agenda of the parliamentary session that took off 7 October 2019 and ended August 2020; the bill was referred to a joint committee of the committees of housing, budgeting and constitutional and legislative affairs. Yet once more, the parliamentary session adjourned without having looked into or passed this law which we thus carry to the upcoming session.
- Family (Personal Status) Law for Christians, which fulfils a constitutional requirement stipulated by Article 3 of the Constitution as follows: “The principles of Christian and Jewish Sharia [meaning laws or doctrines] of Egyptian Christians and Jews are the main source of legislations that govern their respective personal status, religious affairs, and selection of spiritual leaders.”
According to official Church sources, a draft of the Family Bylaws for Christians was drawn and approved in February 2020 by the three major Churches in Egypt, the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical. We are awaiting announcement that the draft law has been submitted to the Cabinet in order for the government to submit it in its turn to parliament, hoping that the law would see light before the end of this legislative term.
4 September 2020