One step awaits Egypt’s new NGO law passed by Parliament on November 29: presidential ratification.
There is a 30-day period after the receipt of a piece of legislation, according to Article 123 of the Constitution, in which the president may either approve a law or return it to Parliament with objections. In the case of the NGO law, the 30 days have elapsed, and there has been no word from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Several prominent players from civil society and the political scene decried the law while it was still in draft form, with their criticism centering on the restrictions imposed on the formation of civil society organizations as much as their general activities, both of which will now be subject to security intervention. The chorus of objections went so far as to include the minister of social solidarity. Nonetheless, these voices were ignored, and a two-third majority of Parliament passed the bill.
Not many in Parliament seem to know what happened to the contested bill.
“I will ask the Parliament’s administration and will let you know,” says Al-Sayed al-Sharif, the deputy to the parliamentary speaker, in response to Mada Masr’s question on when the bill was sent to Sisi. “I don’t know whether it has already been sent or not.”
Rasha Ramadan, an MP in Parliament’s Social Solidarity, Family and People with Disabilities Committee, echoes Sharif’s sentiment. “I do not know whether Parliament has sent the law to Sisi or not, but I am sure the president did not reject it,” she says, adding that the tasking of conveying laws to the presidential office rests with Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal. “He has not informed the committee of any objection from the president so far.”
In response to a question posed at a monthly youth meeting on December 10 (see video), Sisi said that the law was still in Parliament, and that he could not interfere in its provisions as long as it remains with the legislative authority. Before answering, Sisi consulted with Abdel Aal, who was seated next to him when the question was posed.
But a source at the general secretariat of the House of Representatives tells Mada Masr that any law approved by the majority of Parliament should be sent to the president of the republic within two hours of the end of the voting session.
The usual procedure governing how a law is transferred from Parliament to the president features a scribe from the general secretariat who attends the session and takes note of all amendments to the law, which is then drafted into a report sent to the president, according to the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “In the event that the scribe is not sure about any amendment or deletion of any of the provisions of the law at the time of the vote, he will wait until the end of the session and then consult the footage of the session to confirm the final formulation.”
“As soon as the scribe has completed the final draft of the law and stamped it, he takes a parliamentary vehicle to the presidential office and delivers the draft by hand. This may take another hour,” the source says.
There is no procedural mechanism governing instances in which Parliament has failed to send an approved piece of legislation to the president, as the failure to do so would be a breach of the speaker’s duties, according to the source. “It did not occur to those who wrote the Constitution and the bylaws of the House of Representatives that the speaker would withhold sending a law that had been approved by the legislative body’s members to the president of the republic.”
However, the general secretariat member speculates that the law failed to make its way to the president’s desk because there is a preference to delay its issuance.
MP Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat has submitted an urgent request to Abdel Aal, demanding to know what has happened to the law given that Sisi has ratified other pieces of legislation in the time that has elapsed since the NGO law was passed. “Has the law actually been sent to the presidential office or is it still in a drawer?” he asked in the request.
Since Parliament passed the NGO law on November 29, there have been 29 presidential decrees published in the Official Gazette. Three of the 29 are decrees ratifying laws, while none pertain to the NGO legislation.
The approved laws include a law regulating the Judicial Expertise Authority, ratified on December 25 and approved by Parliament on November 29, the same date on which Parliament approved the NGO law. On December 26 Sisi ratified the media regulators law, which makes provision for the formation of institutions to regulate media practice, and he has also approved a third piece of legislation related to the Journalists Syndicate.