Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

December 26, 2012

Egypt's government sets priorities after charter

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's government asked parliament Wednesday to prioritize legislation to organize parliamentary elections, regulate the media and fight corruption as the upper chamber held its first session with temporary new powers granted by the constitution.

The Islamist-dominated Shura Council, the traditionally toothless upper house, was granted temporary legislative powers under the new constitution and began its work a day after the official results of the referendum were released, showing the charter passed with a nearly 64 percent "yes" vote. It will legislate until elections for a new lower house are held within two months.

The disputed, Islamist-drafted constitution deeply divided the nation, though its supporters insisted it would pave the way for more stability in Egypt and the building up of state institutions.

President Mohammed Morsi has had legislative powers for months since a court dissolved the law-making lower house of parliament.

In its first act after the constitution passed, the Shura Council convened to swear in 90 new members appointed by Morsi. Two-thirds of the council's 270 members are elected, and one-third are appointed by the president.

Speaking to the council, the Cabinet minister in charge of parliamentary affairs, Mohammed Mahsoub, said the government will prepare new legislation for parliament to discuss, including a law to regulate the upcoming parliamentary elections, anti-corruption laws, and laws to organize Egypt's efforts to recover money from corrupt officials from the era of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Mahsoub said such bills can be ready as early as next week, when the council convenes again for its regular working session.

He said the government also wants to draft laws to revise maximum and minimum wages, expand social insurance coverage and regulate the media, as well as institute Egypt's first freedom of information act. Such bills, he said, are in line with the new constitution.

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