President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s latest decree, issued Saturday, has raised controversy amongst commentators and experts regarding guarantees of independence and objectivity for independent bodies and regulatory agencies.
The decree institutes Law 65/2015, which allows for the president to dismiss heads and members of independent bodies and regulatory authorities. Dismissals can come under four circumstances, according to the decree.
“Article 20 of the law regulating the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO) says that the president appoints the head for four years, and has the right to renew his term, but cannot dismiss him to guarantee its independence,” political commentator and former presidential adviser Ayman Al-Sayyad told Daily News Egypt.
Lawyer Shawqy El-Sayed, however, said the law is an application of Article 216 of the constitution. He said: “Article 215 defined regulatory bodies as the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA), the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO), and the Administrative Control Authority (ACA).”
He then said that Article 216 gives the president the right to appoint the heads of these agencies and that a law is to define circumstances in which they can be dismissed.
“The law fulfilled these regulations, including specific cases [for dismissal], in matters of utmost importance which cannot be delayed,” El-Sayed said.
The first circumstance for dismissal, as stated by the decree, is if there is evidence against individuals that they compromised national security; the second is if they lost confidence or esteem; the third is if they breach their duties leading to damage of the higher interests of the country or [damage] the esteem of a public official; and finally, if they were too ill to fulfil their position, with the exception of health conditions.
Article 216 of the constitution stipulates: “The formation of each individual autonomous organisation or regulatory agency shall be enacted by a law defining its competences and regulations, and stipulating guarantees for its independence, the necessary protection for its members, and their employment conditions in a way that ensures their neutrality and independence.”
It then adds that the president shall appoint the heads of such agencies after a majority approval from the House of Representatives. It further adds that they cannot be dismissed except in cases stated in each body’s individual law. It adds that any prohibitions for ministers will be applicable for these heads.
In a statement Sunday, the Popular Current rejected the law, saying it is a mockery of the constitution’s intentions, and hence the Egyptian peoples’ aspirations, since they overwhelmingly approved the document. The political group warned of the consequences of the law, saying that Egypt could face corruption as a result, which was one of the main driving forces of the revolution of 2011.
Al-Sayyad highlighted that the constitution stipulates that each body should have its own regulatory law, and that it guarantees the objectivity and independence of these bodies. Al-Sayyad pointed out: “The last period saw current head of the CAO, Hesham Genenah, clash with state institutions, such as the Ministry of Interior and the Judges Club, for example.”
“Rumours of individual targets [by the law] are incorrect and have no truth,” El-Sayed nonetheless said. He continued that the full application of the law will reveal if a person harms public interest, and in such cases the president has the right to dismiss such persons, as per the circumstances defined in the law.
The Popular Current said the law comes in a series of laws of “bad reputation”, in the absence of parliament. Al-Sayyad echoed this sentiment, saying: “This law is an addition to over 300 laws passed without parliament in the past two years. “
He said that this is a cause for concern without a doubt, as the executive branch of government is also the legislator.
On the other hand, El-Sayed defended the president’s right to issue decrees with the force of laws in the absence of parliament, saying it is his right to do so, and that the laws will be reviewed by parliament once it convenes.
Al-Sayyad, however, argued that the constitution requires that parliament review any laws decreed in its absence within 15 days of its first session. “This excess of laws passed without parliament is certainly a problem. When will parliament have time to review over 300 laws in 15 days?” he asked.
“I’m not saying the president will dismiss Genenah, but if he does, as some assume, then we face a huge question concerning the [seriousness of] combating of corruption in Egypt,” he also said. “By international standards, independence means immunity for dismissal. If the president can dismiss [heads or members] then the bodies are not independent, and there are suspicions regarding their independence.”
Al-Sayyad further said that other independent bodies, besides the four defined in Article 215 of the constitution, could be affected. He said that the constitution requires the formation of several such bodies, which include three regulatory organisations for the media, as well as elections commissions, and said that their independence and objectivity could be compromised.