The saga with Egypt’s civil service law continues

Although Egypt’s Parliament has rejected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s civil service law, the rejection hasn’t yet been activated.

Parliament decided on January 20 to reject the law, with a majority of 332 members voting against it, making it the only law out of 342 reviewed by the legislative body to be rejected. Parliament was given just 10 days to review all the laws passed by Sisi and interim President Adly Mansour in its absence.

The law will continue to be upheld until February due to an administrative process, as the minutes of the session in which it was rejected will only be approved on February 7, when the reasons for this decision will be sent to the president, parliamentary Secretary General Ahmed Saad explained last Wednesday in a press briefing.

In the meantime, civil servants will be paid their January salaries according to the civil service law, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Magdy al-Agaty said in press remarks last week. Another law to replace the one being rejected was also supposed to be released, which didn’t happen.

A leading official in the Planning Ministry explained to Mada Masr that “Parliament’s decision to reject the law wasn’t published in the official Gazette, because the president didn’t formally receive parliament’s decision with the reasons for the rejection.”

Article 174 of the parliamentary bylaws states that, “If the parliament rejects a law, the speaker must notify the president with the decision, supported by the reasons for it, the procedures that were followed and the opinions expressed.”

The official, who preferred to remain anonymous added, “The Parliament’s speaker is the reason for such a delay, as he deliberately stalled to postpone the implementation of the law for as long as he could.”

Negotiations are ongoing between Parliament and the government over amendments to the law, which will be presented to parliament in a few days, Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Magdy al-Agaty told the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.

Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal didn’t respond to requests for comment from Mada Masr.

Sisi blamed parliament for rejecting the law during his speech to mark Police Day this year, hailing the law as an attempt at reforming the sector.

The Planning Ministry official explained that the president now has two options: to approve the rejection and publish the decision in the official Gazette — in which case, a new draft of the state’s civil servants law, which precedes the new bill, should be sent to parliament. Or, to introduce new amendments to the existing law and send them to parliament.

“Reality shows an inevitable legislative vacuum in all cases, which Abdel Aal sensed early on, leading him to deliberately postpone sending the rejection decision to the president,” the official explained. “The government didn’t ask for this, he decided it by himself.”

Parliamentarians Bahaa Eddin Abu Shaqa and Agaty both suggested approving the law and applying some amendments, which the government would be obliged to present in a new draft law at a later date, a member of parliament’s Manpower Committee explained.

The anonymous official added, “It seems that the minority’s decision was applied, as the civil service law is still effective as we await new amendments by the government.”

Unlike many other presidential decrees, this piece of legislation has proven to be widely unpopular. Issued in March last year, the decree provoked heavy resistance from public sector workers, unions, political parties, rights organizations, and NGOs.

In effect, the legislation served to halt the bonuses, slow wage increases and limit the promotions of countless civil servants, while granting sweeping powers to state-appointed company administrators.

Numerous protests were staged against the civil service law in 2015. Civil servants argued Sisi didn’t confer with them or their unions before it was introduced.

Beesan Kassab 

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