Top News: Parliament Rejects Civil Service Law, Approves Law Shielding State Deals

Egypt’s parliament rejected on Wednesday the controversial Civil Service Law after 332 MPs out of 468 voted against it. The law, which regulates appointment criteria, payments, retirements and promotions for civil workers in government agencies, was met with widespread criticism by many state employees, labor unions and labor rights activists. They say the legislation would destroy the long held rights such as job security, and could push thousands of government workers out of work. The bill is likely to be returned by the floor to the parliamentary committee on labor issues for further review and modifications before returning to the general assembly again. Also on Wednesday, parliament passed a law barring third-party challenges to state contracts even though it was rejected earlier this week, MP Medhat al-Sherif said. The law, which was passed in April 2014 under then-interim president Adly Mansour, aims to assure investors that their deals with the Egyptian government would be shielded from lengthy legal disputes incurred by citizens’ legal complaints. The parliament also approved the three laws governing the parliamentary elections – the law on the exercise of political rights, the constituencies law, and the House of Representatives law. Meanwhile, MP Mortada Mansour accused the media of attempting to tarnish the image of the new parliament, and has called for internal bylaws of the House be amended to allow MPs to file lawsuits accused of defaming parliament or covering parliamentary news in “derogatory” terms. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, AMAY, 1/21/2016]


Foreign Ministry celebrates January 25 revolution achievements
Ahead of the fifth anniversary of the January 25 uprising, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a media campaign dubbed “Egypt Better Today,” which will highlight the 25 “most important accomplishments” of the Egyptian state since 2011. Using the hashtag #EgyptBetterToday, the Foreign Ministry says it will issue five daily statements in both Arabic and English on social media. According to the ministry’s Facebook page, the five areas of success they will highlight are “political rights and the enhancement of citizen participation, the restoration of Egypt’s regional and international roles, youth empowerment, promotion of a culture of diversity and the path towards social justice and economic reform.” On Twitter, the #EgyptBetterToday Arabic hashtag has attracted many opponents of the January 25 revolution, who slammed the uprising as a conspiracy, saying that Egypt was “better” in 2011 than in 2015. Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi also joined the active Twitter hashtag, slamming President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his supporters. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 1/21/2016]


Mubarak, Adly retrial postponed to April 7
The Court of Cassation postponed on Thursday the retrial of former President Hosni Mubarak, his Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six other security officials to April 7 over charges of ordering the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising. The court ordered the retrial session to be moved from its current location at the High Court building in downtown to a more “suitable” location. The last retrial session was postponed for the same reasons. The court said it received a request from the Maadi Military Hospital to move the retrial to the Police Academy, so he may be transported via helicopter. [AMAY, Aswat Masriya, 1/21/2016]

Also of Interest:

  • Twelve engineers arrested over forgery, bribery | AMAY
  • Trial of four men over arson attack on Giza restaurant begins March 29 | Cairo Post


Egypt’s EFG Hermes targets renewable energy investments
EFG Hermes Holding SAE, the largest independent Arab investment bank, plans to build a portfolio of renewable-energy investments in Europe and the Middle East over the next five years as utilities in those regions add cost-competitive solar and wind operations. The bank is targeting about 1,000 megawatts of wind and solar assets in Europe over three years, Bakr Abdel Wahab, the Egypt-based bank’s managing director for private equity, said in an interview in Abu Dhabi. The company paid $208 million for 132 megawatts of a French wind-energy business in 2014, its first investment outside the Middle East and North Africa, he said. [Bloomberg, 1/201/2016]

Also of Interest

  • S&P says GCC fiscal pressures could affect support for Egypt | DNE
  • Fitch: New Egyptian bank rules could weaken asset quality | Reuters
  • Egypt continues negotiations with ADFD, IDB for development projects | DNE
  • Egyptian Refining Co to start output at largest refinery in Q1 2017 | Reuters
  • Saudi Fund approves $119 million to upgrade Egypt’s historical Kasr al-Aini hospital | Ahram Online
  • 2015 was a boom year for global tourism, but a bust for Egypt | Mada Masr


Townhouse says closure is due to state admin failures, not politics
Townhouse Gallery’s downtown Cairo premises remain closed not for political reasons but due to administrative failures by various state bodies, Townhouse outreach director Yasser Gerab told Mada Masr on Wednesday. The gallery and the nearby Rawabet Theater that it runs were both shuttered on December 28 following a raid by an interagency team. Several cultural spaces and apartments in the area have since received surprise inspections. While a Townhouse source told Mada Masr at the time that the state bodies whose representatives were present for the raid included the Interior Ministry’s Office of Artistic Products Police Department, the Tax Authority, the National Security Agency and the local office of the Ministry of Manpower, a statement posted on Townhouse’s official Facebook page on Wednesday said otherwise. The statement named four bodies that inspected the arts space before its closure as the West Cairo Municipality, the Ministry of Manpower, the Tax Authority and the Office of Artistic Products Police Department. It did not refer to any security bodies. Townhouse said its legal representative contacted all four entities for the reasons behind the ongoing closure, but none have assumed responsibility for the decision. “I don’t think the closure is political. It exposes the inability of administrative bodies to have clear work mechanisms,” Gerab said. [Mada  Masr, 1/20/2016]


ISIS claims attack on checkpoint that killed seven policemen
An Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) group claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack on a checkpoint in the country’s volatile Sinai Peninsula that killed seven policemen. The ministry initially announced a death toll of five, and later updated it to seven. Those killed included three officers and four lower-ranking personnel. The claim, which was issued via a statement circulated by the group’s sympathizers on social media, could not independently but the design and logo resembled previous ISIS claims. The attack took place at midnight on Wednesday in the city of al-Arish and also wounded three policemen, the Interior Ministry said in its original statement. [Ahram Online, AP, 1/21/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Third phase of Sinai-Gaza buffer zone finalized | Cairo Post


China offers support to Egypt during president’ visit
China signed a number of economic deals with Egypt during a visit by President Xi Jinping on Thursday and agreed to a $1 billion financing agreement with the Central Bank of Egypt and $700 million in loans to the National Bank of Egypt. Officials from the two countries signed a total of 21 deals that span several infrastructure investments, including power generation, the first phase of a new administrative capital, and the development of an industrial and commercial hub around Egypt’s new Suez Canal.  Agreements were also signed in the electricity, housing, and civil aviation sectors. “China supports Egypt’s efforts to maintain stability, develop the economy and improve livelihoods, and supports Egypt to play an even greater role in international and regional affairs,” Xi said. “We are ready to work with the Egyptian side to carry forward our traditional friendship, learn from each other, and deepen our practical cooperation in various fields.” [Reuters, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 1/21/2016]