London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In his final days in office, outgoing interim president Adly Mansour has moved to cement his place in modern history as the only Egyptian head of state to leave office through an orderly transition of power by signing into law a set of major legislative measures.
Mansour approved a number of laws on Thursday dealing with a variety of topics, from a new anti-sexual harassment law to one increasing tax on Egypt’s wealthiest. The most significant law the outgoing interim president signed regulates the forthcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year—the final step of the post-Mursi political roadmap.
The law will see the number of seats in Egypt’s House of Representatives decrease from 630 to 567. Of these seats, 420 will be elected via an individual candidacy system while as many as 120 seats will be reserved for party lists. Egypt’s president will also be able to appoint lawmakers to up to 27 seats—5 percent of the parliament—in accordance with the constitution.
The constitution also ensures that 24 seats be reserved for Coptic Christians and 70 for women. Egypt’s parliament also includes quotas for representatives of farmers, workers and other unions.
Egypt’s new law on sexual harassment includes tougher sentences for offenders. Mansour amended Egypt’s penal code to impose jail terms of no less than six months and/or fines of between 3,000 and 5,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. 420 to 700 US dollars) on those found guilty of sexual harassment. Sentences were further increased for repeat offenders and those in positions of power over their victims.
Adly Mansour also unilaterally passed a presidential decree imposing a 5 percent income tax on Egyptian citizens with annual earnings in excess of 1 million Egyptian pounds (approx. 140,000 dollars), as well as companies that report profits in excess of the same amount. This 5 percent tax rate is a temporary measure that will only be applied for the next three years.
The interim president also toughened legislation on citizens found guilty of dumping waste on public land, which has predominately been used to target illegal waste dumping by large construction companies.
Mansour also issued a presidential decree explicitly banning all “non-certified” Islamic preachers from the pulpit. It comes as part of the ongoing campaign by Egypt’s Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) to take greater control of the country’s mosques. Under the new law, only Ministry employees or members of the Al-Azhar Institute can preach from mosque pulpits or teach. Non-certified imams and preachers will face prison sentences of between three and twelve months and/or fines of between 20,000-50,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. 2,800 and 7,000 dollars).
Adly Mansour officially leaves office on Sunday, when president-elect Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi takes the oath of office before the Supreme Constitutional Court, a body which Mansour also heads. The interim president—who will have been in office for just over 11 months—issued an emotional farewell speech on Wednesday during which he said that Egypt is “in better shape” than it was when he first came to office.
“It was a year of formidable and immense responsibility. As an ordinary citizen, I never imagined the true extent of the burden, the enormity of the challenges,” Mansour said. He is expected to resume his role as the country’s most senior judge as head of the Supreme Constitutional Court after he steps down.