What will the new parliament do with Sisi’s laws?

With Egypt’s long-awaited parliament due to convene early next year, the fate of the laws issued by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the absence of a legislative authority remains in question.

Article 156 of the Constitution, which passed in January 2014, allows the president to issue legislation when the parliament is not in session, “if something occurs that necessitates taking measures that cannot be delayed.”

Sisi has used this power to issue over 175 laws since he came to power, according to a legislation tracker set up by the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP). The laws passed have included economic, political, security-related and diplomatic legislation, as well as administrative decisions.

In June 2014, Sisi formed the Supreme Committee for Legislative Reform under the leadership of the prime minister. The committee was tasked with revising and researching presidential decrees and draft laws.

According to the Constitution, the parliament is meant to revise and approve all laws passed in its absence within 15 days of its convening. Laws that are not discussed or approved by the parliament within this period are to be retroactively revoked.

However, due to the volume of laws passed by Sisi, which would be impossible to discuss in 15 days, there are emerging suggestions to work around this stipulation.

University professor and co-founder of the March 9 Movement for the independence of universities Laila Soueif told Mada Masr that there are currently suggestions for the parliament to approve all of Sisi’s laws in bulk and postpone discussing them.

Soueif suggests that the most contentious laws passed by the president, which provoked public controversy, should be excluded from the mass approval and discussed individually.

“If they want to approve these laws, they should be exposed for it, and not be able to hide it within a number of other laws,” she says.

Several of the laws passed by Sisi have been met with backlash.

Politically, these include the protest law, the civil service law, the anti-terrorism law, amendments to the penal code, the extension of pre-trial detention and a law empowering the president to remove immunized heads of independent bodies.

On the economy front, some of the most controversial laws include stipulating a maximum wage in public sector, income tax law, investment law  – which was passed right before the economic summit held in Egypt last March and amendments to the economic zones law.

Mai al-Sadany, researcher and manager of TIMEP’s legislation tracker said in an introductory commentary to the project that several researchers argued that issuing controversial and non-urgent laws should have waited until the parliament convenes. Sadany says that the president’s temporary legislative powers should be used only for laws crucial for maintaining national security.

Sadany gives an example of the law giving the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and General Intelligence Services the authority to establish security companies that provide protection services for public facilities and funds.

“Although the state has a duty to protect national security, there are concerns regarding the adverse impact that such a law may have on the private sector’s security companies,” she argues.

“The law also could potentially contribute to a military-industrial complex and unfair profit scheme for government agencies in a country where approximately one-third of the economy was reported to have been under army control in 2011.”

Mohamed Hamama