In less than one year in office, interim president Adly Mansour issued several laws, many of which came just days before he left office. His very first decree established the timeline for Egypt’s roadmap following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. Since June, newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has created a legislation reform committee which will prepare draft laws, and has already issued at least two laws, both of which were met with some controversy.
Laws and Decrees Issued by Sisi
Legislation Reform Committee (June 16, 2014): Sisi issued a decree forming a legislation reform committee that is tasked with preparing draft laws issued by the president. The committee includes the ministers of parliamentary affairs and transitional justice, the head of the State Council, the state’s Mufti, Al-Azhar’s deputy, the head of the cabinet’s advisory board, the head of the State Council’s legislative department and the justice minister’s assistant for legislation, as well as judges, lawyers, law professors and legal experts.
Income Tax Law (July 1, 2014): A law proposed by minister of finance Hany Dimian imposes a 10-percent year-end tax on stock market dividends and capital gains. The tax will be reduced to 5 percent “if the percentage of the contribution to the subsidiary company accounts for 25 percent of capital or voting rights under the condition that the period of share ownership not exceed two years.” Sisi approved the law less than a month into his presidency. When the law was ratified, it also included a new income tax imposed on Egyptians. Taxes on extra earnings will also be imposed on business activities conducted in Egypt and abroad by residents – as long as their primary professional activities are based in Egypt. Critics of the law fear it will repel investors, while the the finance ministry has stated it will raise between EGP 3.5 and EGP 4.5 million. The government will begin implementing the law on July 6.
University Law (June, 2014): One of the first decrees issued by Sisi amended the 1972 law regulating universities. The amendments reverse changes made to the law in the wake of the January 25 uprising, which allowed universities to elect their heads. Article 25 of the law stipulates that the president will appoint the university president, while Article 23 stipulates that the president appoints the faculty dean. The decision, which comes after yearlong protests at Egypt’s universities have left at least 14 students dead, has been criticized by student activists, fearing increased state intervention in universities.
Laws and Decrees Issued by Mansour
Parliamentary Elections Law (June, 2014): Another highly controversial law, the parliamentary elections law has been met with condemnation primarily because of the electoral system that was chosen. It allocates 80 percent of the seats to individual candidates, leaving only 20 percent for the party list system. Individual candidates can also run on the list system, and rather than the proportional list system used in the 2012 elections (with the law ratified under SCAF), it uses a winner-takes-all system.
A main point of controversy in the 2012 elections law, which ultimately led to the dissolution of the first post-Mubarak parliament was the fact that party candidates ran as individual candidates. The Supreme Constitutional Court judge who ruled on the constitutionality of the law also determined that half rather than a third of the seats should have been allocated to individual candidates. Opposition to the Brotherhood had also argued that the law gave way to gerrymandering. Districting is an issue that the 2014 law does not address, and was an issue of contention as subsequent drafts submitted by the Islamist dominated Shura Council to the SCC were rejected under Morsi. More on the 2014 elections law and the kind of parliament it will likely result in can be found here.
Sexual Harassment Law (June, 2014): A tougher sexual harassment law was issued just days before mass sexual assaults occurred in Tahrir Square as Egyptians celebrated Sisi’s inauguration. The law introduced a prison sentence of up to five years, and a fine of up to EGP 50,000 for sexual harassers. Since its implementation, there have been several cases before the courts, and at least three men have been sentenced from six months to a year in prison in Minya and Cairo. Another man was sentenced to one year in prison after taking photos of a sleeping woman on a public bus.
Income Tax Law (June, 2014): A new law increasing income tax on millionaires was also ratified days before Mansour left office. The 5 percent increase will be applied for the next three years, to individuals whose income and companies whose profit exceeds EPG 1 million.
Littering Law (June, 2014): Tougher penalties against littering were introduced alongside a raft of other laws. Amending the 1967 Public Hygiene Law, Mansour’s changes saw penalties of up to EGP 100,000 for construction waste and fines of up to EGP 5,000 for citizens who litter.
Ban on uncertified Islamic preachers (June, 2014): The new law stipulates that only employees of the ministry of endowments or Al Azhar can preach in Egypt’s mosques. At least 12,000 clerics have been barred from preaching since the law was passed. Violating the law can lead to a punishment of up to a year in jail and a fine of EGP 50,000. The punishment is doubled in the case of repeat offenders. Wearing a clerical uniform is limited to Azhar students, graduate, and employees. Violation of this rule can lead to a year in jail and a fine of up to EGP 30,000. The ministry of endowments’ employees can arrest those who are in violation of the law. The law came amid several measures by the Egyptian government to consolidate its control on the religious message emerging from the nation’s mosques. The Ministry of Interior has also moved to ban religious stickers on cars, a decision that was met with a backlash from Brotherhood supporters. The interior ministry defended the move saying it is simply enforcing an existing law forbidding any stickers, regardless of the message, on cars.
Allocation of Land (May/June, 2014): In May, Mansour issued a decree allocation 885,000 acres of state land to the New Urban Communities Authority to establish an urban community in Alamein. Another 145,820 acres of land were allocated to the National Authority for Drinking Water and Sanitation to implement water projects in the governorates of Luxor, Qena, Sohag, and Beni Suef. In June, right before leaving office, he allocated another 398 acres of state land to the ministry of trade, industry and investment. The zone, called al-Robeky, will be used for leather tanneries.
Investment Law amendment (May, 2014): Mansour issued a decree in early May amending the investment law, immunizing state contracts with investors from third party litigation. While authorities claim the amendment will revive investments in Egypt, critics fear it is a gateway to further corruption. The amendment, which was applied retroactively, rendered 20 lawsuits against government contracts invalid. The contacts include the Bank of Alexandria, the National Bank for Development, Banque Misr, Palm Hills, Glass and Crystal Company, Dawn Development and Housing, Porto Sukhna, Crescent, Golden Star, Sulaymaniyah Land, and Misr Cotton Ginning Company.
Terrorism Law (April, 2014): Submitted by the Cabinet to Mansour, but later sent back for further amendments, Egypt’s terrorism law has yet to be passed. The draft law extends preventative detention beyond the limits outlined by the 2014 constitution, as well as grants the president wider jurisdiction in allowing for exceptional measures including arrest and search orders, and declaring a curfew. A vague definition of ‘terrorism’ in the draft could allow for a crackdown on peaceful protests and labor strikes, according to Human Rights Watch. The law stipulates that anyone convicted of aiding or belonging to a group that harms “national untiy and social peace” could face up to ten years in prison. Leaders of terrorist organizations could face the death penalty under this law. With the Muslim Brotherhood declared a terrorist organization, anyone accused of belonging to or aiding members of the organization could be prosecuted under this law, once passed.
Property Tax Law (March, 2014): An amendment by the cabinet to the 2008 property tax law exempts residential rentals of EGP 2,000 or less per month and commercial rentals of EGP 100 or less from property tax.
Presidential Elections Law (March, 2014): Mansour issued a law regulating Egypt’s presidential elections which took place in June. The most controversial aspect of this law was the immunization of decisions by the Presidential Elections Commission against judicial appeal.
Reconstitution of SCAF (February, 2014): Mansour issued a presidential decree reconstituting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to be headed by the defense minister rather than the president, for the first time in Egypt’s history.
Tax reconciliations (December, 2013): Mansour issued a decree allowing reconciliation in disputes between taxpayers and the Tax Authority.
Protest Law (November, 2013): One of the most controversial laws issued during the year after Morsi’s ouster, Mansour ratified the law regulating protests in Egypt. It has since been used to jail countless people, among them prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah who was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The law issued in November defines a protest as at least ten people gathered in a public place with the aim of peacefully expressing their political opinions, demands or objections. According to the law, police must receive advance notice of the protest in writing–this should include the names of the organizers, the start and end time of the protest and its location. Breaking the law can carry with it a fine of up to EGP 300,000 and a prison sentence of up to seven years. A full translation of the protest law can be viewed here.
Under Morsi, attempts were made to pass a similar law. The ministry of justice under Ahmed Mekki included many of the same stipulations including prior notification in writing. Both laws also allowed police to use a gradual method to disperse protests beginning with a verbal notification, escalating to the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. In the case of the 2014 law, it also allows the use of metal bullets. While the 2013 version did not, it did allow them to use a “stronger force than mentioned in situations listed in the Penal Code, the police law or on orders from a judge.”
Tenders and Auctions Law (September, 2013): Mansour issued a decree amending the 1998 Tenders and Auctions law. The law allows ministers and heads of government bodies, in urgent cases, to bypass requirements for public auctions or tenders when buying services or products, or assigning contracts. The amendments dramatically increased the value of these products and services.
Social security law (August, 2013): Just a month into his presidency, Mansour terminated the 2010 social security law. Instead, the law now ensures an increase in pensions for workers working with governmental third parties in the public and private sectors.