Local Councils Law Within 4 Months; Governors by Election

Local Councils Law Within 4 Months; Governors by Election

Saber Abdel-Sadek, Chairman of the People’s Assembly (PA) Local Administration Committee confirmed that the new administrative law concerning local councils will come into effect within months, pointing out that the committee is currently working in collaboration with relevant authorities to complete the drafting of this law.

Speaking to the Freedom and Justice Newspaper (FJN), Saber Abdel-Sadek stated that all municipal leaders, including governors, will be elected, adding that local council elections will take place just after the presidential elections.

Abdel-Sadek said, "Local council elections may take place in accordance to the old law. However, if drafting the new bill is completed before the elections, than the new bill will be enacted".

He revealed that the new law is aimed at restructuring the selection process of local leaders and local people’s councils; as well as achieving the optimum utilization of the resources in each governorate. He stressed that the new law will allow members of local councils to question actions and decisions by any officials including the governor. Councils will also be given authority to impose fees for services.

Abdel-Sadek pointed out that they are endeavoring to formulate a plan to promote development of the entire border provinces, and not just Sinai, indicating that the plan will save the country billions of Egyptian Pounds, and achieve real development in Egypt.

FJN: What are the plans of the Local Administration Committee?

Abdel-Sadek: Unfortunately, the former regime left for us many hurdles. However, we have taken pledge to serve this our homeland, and all the people. Hence, the committee has recorded each of these problems and developed a plan to solve them in a manner that will aid the democratization process and boost collaboration and coordination amongst local units and their councils, in line with the general political objectives and the State’s general plan.

FJN: What are the committee’s priorities and what steps has it taken regarding the local council’s bill?

Abdel-Sadek: The committee is paying special attention to studying the new local administration bill expected to be submitted to the PA promptly, in order to bolster the role of local councils, for better decentralization of power. It hopes to develop local councils’ status, empowering it financially, with distribution of state resources in relation to allocated responsibilities.

FJN: When will the law be effective; have you started work on it?

Abdel-Sadek: We have, in fact, started work on this draft law in collaboration with three authorities, namely: the general secretariat of local governance, Ministry of Urban Development and a group of experts from the faculty of economics and political science; in addition to members of the PA’s Local Administration Committee. The law will be effective within four months.

FJN: Wouldn’t you say that four months is too long, particularly with the widespread corruption witnessed in local councils?

Abdel-Sadek: Local councils are the nerve centers of any community. The law that will govern them require a lot of analysis, consideration and preparation, especially since it is multi-faceted and covers numerous aspects most importantly the decentralization of power to local councils. Furthermore, it will outline how the local councils will be chosen, including governors. Therefore, we must take our time in preparing the law.

FJN: Who is overseeing local leaders, now that local councils have been dissolved, following the revolution?

Abdel-Sadek: According to article 43 for the year 1979, directly after the resolution to dissolve local councils, following the revolution, the Minister for Urban Development should have issued a decree and sent it to the governors to form interim local councils. However, this was not done; which is a violation of the law that led to the freezing of numerous projects and initiatives, including lands allocated for building, schools, hospitals and youth centers. This has cost the nation huge losses.

FJN: Why was nothing done about this earlier? Why didn’t you contact the Minister asking for such a decree so the nation’s affairs are not so delayed?

Abdel-Sadek: The PA’s Local Administrative Committee dispatched a request to the Urban Development Minister, as soon as it started work in parliament. It outlined criteria for choosing the interim local council’s members. We called for these to be disseminated to all governorates nationwide. However, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued orders for the formation of interim councils made up from university professors, advisors and civilians. We still insist on the criteria we outlined.

FJN: How do you perceive the criteria set by SCAF for interim local council members?

Abdel-Sadek: In my opinion, the criteria set by SCAF will not help work get done effectively, since choice is limited to people who are not familiar with the common man in the street, by virtue of their professions or occupations.

FJN: What are the most important criteria the committee set for choosing members of the interim local councils?

Abdel-Sadek: The general criteria for selecting personnel for the councils include: specialization, geographical representation and youth representation no less than 25% in these local councils. Moreover, members should meet the conditions stipulated in the law on political rights and representation, must not be members of the outgoing councils, and each party should be represented in those local councils by a number of members proportionate to its seats in the legislative councils.

Further, these members should complete military service, as necessary, and they should be endorsed by local MPs, with no interference from governors.

FJN: Will the upcoming local council elections run in accordance to the new or old law? and when will they take place?

Abdel-Sadek: Local councils are part of the nation’s constitutional institutions; they complement other state institutions.

According to SCAF’s statements, local council elections should take place after the presidential elections. I believe the new law may not be effective within this timeframe. So, the elections will run according to the old law.

FJN: But the old law is full of flaws which you reject, how can you agree to run the elections using them?

Abdel-Sadek: There is no contradiction in this. We seek to serve public interest; and so we want to step up the pace of the electoral process to eliminate any corruption that currently exists.  If we waited for the new law to come into effect, it will increase the chances for corruption spreading farther. However, if the new law is passed in time, it will promptly replace the old one.

FJN: In the new law, how will the governors be chosen?

Abdel-Sadek: The new law will stipulate that all local leaders, regardless of status, must be elected.

FJN: What are the most significant aspects of this new law?

Abdel-Sadek: The law seeks to accomplish decentralization of power, reorganize selection procedures of local council leaders and assemblies, achieve optimum utilization of the resources in each governorate, restore the rights of local council members to question officials regardless of their status including the governor, grant local assemblies the right to administer fees for certain services, and make representation in local councils proportionate to population rather than administrative distribution as in current law.

FJN: In your opinion, how is it possible to cleanse local councils of the corruption which was widespread under the defunct former regime?

Abdel-Sadek: The new law will authorize council members to oversee procedures. Senior officers will be elected rather than appointed, thus facilitating the cleansing process.

FJN: What is your view regarding the numerous ‘special’ funds in the provinces?

Abdel-Sadek: In light of the current situation, where constitutional and oversight state institutions are still incomplete, we believe all funds should be added to the state budget. Later, after local council elections are completed, funds in a given province should be handled and used by that province, in order to assist the decentralization process.

FJN: Political and economic reform in Turkey began with the local councils, why don’t we learn from their experience?

Abdel-Sadek: We are currently studying and analyzing numerous experiences from various countries worldwide. It appears that the Indonesian experience regarding local councils is more relevant though. This does not mean we will not benefit from the Turkish experience.

FJN: What are your views regarding developing Sinai and other border provinces?

Abdel-Sadek: We have an ambitious agenda for development of all these border constituencies, which will save the nation billions of (Egyptian) Pounds, and aspires to accomplish true development and progress for Egypt.

FJN: What are your plans to develop slum areas?

Abdel-Sadek: Some slum areas are being developed, cleaned up as much as possible. As for those areas where mild improvement is not effective, we hope to clear them off, after finding alternative sites for their residents.