Empowering The People: Legislative Body

Egypt’s El Shura Council and General Assembly are the two entities compromising the country’s Legislative body.  What really is the difference between them and what is the distinct authority of each? The answer is often ambiguous, due to their overlapping reality; A reality that leads to a weak system, with limited authority, short-term vision, and a very unclear role.

On a cab drive to Maadi I had one of the most interesting conversations with the cab driver. Furious with “the system”, as many cab drivers seem to be these days, he had an exceptionally good idea for fixing it: Fix the legislative bodies by freeing them of the control of “the people” in order to achieve a less-corrupt system. His idea was simple: people are, by nature, constantly seeking their individual well-being, which is usually focused on short-term gains and often goes against the collective good.

Having both bodies mostly elected and representing the people, which often means representing “the individuals”, surely leads to short-term strategies that serve the public-opinion and are solely influenced by individuals’ well-being. I played with the idea for a while and it seemed natural. If it works for corporations, why wouldn’t it work to run the country? I would like to look at the country as cooperation, with the  General Assembly representing the stock-owners, while El Shura Council represents the Board.

The solution is to have one of the legislative bodies to serve as the “people’s assembly”, which would naturally be the General Assembly, and have the other legislative body represent the professional consultants, which would naturally be El Shura. Their names suggest that they were originally structured that precise way but that somehow the idea got skewed through time. The role of each should be different, so that the sum of both is greater than their individual values, synergistic.

The General Assembly’s role would be to represent the people’s opinion. The General Assembly, through a nominee elimination process, chooses the El Shura members. It directs The Shura on the issues to be tackled, the weaknesses in the system, and the performance of the managing Executive body. The General Assembly then votes on solutions proposed by the Shura. That’s it. The role of the General Assembly would then be to represent the people, as the owners, rather than managing the system.

That role of management falls on El Shura. A body of knowledgeable experts and specialized consultants, nominated by the other El Shura members, and elected by the General Assembly. They are the board that runs the country. Seventy-one members, each two specialized in one of the thirty-five departments of the Executive Body, in addition to the Chairman, who is elected by and from El Shura.

The members are chosen based on the achievements, integrity, and expertise in each of the fields they represent. We have a great number of Egyptians living abroad who are shaping the world in their respective fields. Allow them to make that change at home. Mohamed El Baradei, Ahmed Zewail, Dr. Magdi Yacoub, Dr. Akef El Maghrabi, Gamal Aziz, Abdel Shakour Shaalan and Mohamed El Erian are great examples to name a few.

Those names may fail miserably in the executive body. They would fail to execute. Many of them do not have good managerial backgrounds, a limited local  executive knowledge, and even worse political capabilities that would lead to their failure fail in the executive body. Let them do what they know best and that is to advise on best practices and successful strategies. Let them be the think-tank, let them draw the plan, and empower the executive body to execute that plan.

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About forwardegypt

Egypt: Ideas for empowering the people, creating wealth, and improving standards of living
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4 Responses to Empowering The People: Legislative Body

  1. Hussein Khalifa says:

    The idea is not as novel as it sounds. Britain once had a system like this – the House of Lords. Peers who did not have to worry about reelection could – if they so chose to dedicate themselves – focus on long-term objectives and act as a system of checks and balances against the short-term politics of the House of Commons. Politically unfashionable but socially or ecologically important issues were often successfully addressed by the Lords.

    Moreover, this system – unlike the one you suggest – was also a very effective second legislative chamber (your proposed model actually removes most legislative responsibility from the Shura) that acted as a Senate of sorts.

    In any case, Tony Blair ruined the Lords by making it completely political – as he was wont to during his tenure. Nevertheless, a senior body similar to Canada’s senate is not a bad idea at all.

  2. Kasey156 says:

    Not clear – General assembly, then, is the elected portion of the legislature?

  3. Kat_Mo says:

    I think the main problem here is with who gets to select this “upper house” and how much power to create legislation or veto it. The House of Lords in Britain went the way of the do-do birds because it’s origination came from the old feudal hold over. The “Lords” were not just titled gentlemen, but land holders, often of massive estates, who had vested interests in managing the long term economic and political situations. Up to the middle of the 20th century, these massive land holdings produced the agricultural, dairy and meat for the country as well as tin and iron mining.

    Since then, these land holdings have been broken up and sold to other farmers and mining and agricultural corporations. Many historical homes have been signed over to trusts and other historical foundations. The “Lords” are no longer tied to the land. That is the reason that the House of Lords lost their purpose and power.

    As for Egypt, the problem, as noted above, is in the appointing of any massive body of legislature who owes their appointments to anyone other than the people that they are supposed to serve. They are as easily corruptible (if not more so) than an elected body and can serve as a powerful lever for any group or individual to maintain political control.

    Frankly, I believe Egypt should do away with the Shura altogether or insure that if they are appointed by the president of that term, they must be approved by the parliament and can only act as technical/legal advisers on their subject, not as a voting body. In order to further insure that anyone person cannot control the political make up of this body or that the entire Shura is not beholding to the sitting president or current political party in power in the parliament, divide the body into quarters and have each section come up for re-appointment at alternating intervals to start with (2, 4, 6), after that, each seat would be up for re-appointment every two years.

    this will keep the appointments fresh, limit power and keep the focus on their legislated responsibilities instead of acting as an unelected power.

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