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Egyptian Cabinet Approves Restrictions on Demonstrations
February 13, 2013

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The Egyptian Cabinet has approved a proposed law that puts stark restrictions on public demonstrations.

Among the tenets of the proposed law:

  • Protesters must signal their intent to protest beforehand and must receive approval from the Interior Ministry.
  • Protesters must not set up platforms for speakers or tents for sit-ins.
  • Protest banners and slogans must not defame the government or Islam.

Human rights groups decried the draft, which needs approval from the Shura Council, the upper house of Parliament, in order to become law. Parliament's lower house was dissolved by a top-level court; elections to fill the lower house will take place in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, hundreds of low-ranking police participated in a protest of their own, in multiple provinces. The police protesters warned of a public backlash in the wake of sustained crackdowns on anti-government protesters in Cairo, Alexandria, Heliopolis, and elsewhere.

The protests and protester-law debate took place against the backdrop of a country still reeling from a stagnant economy. Egypt is still in need of a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, but the IMF's conditions for granting that long have yet to be met. Among the conditions was a reform in the way that the Egyptian government doles out subsidies, particularly on diesel fuel, which is growing quite scarce.

Many industries depend on diesel fuel, among them agriculture, transportation, tourism, and even food production: Some bakeries use diesel to power their equipment.

President Mohamed Morsi recently delayed a planned implementation of rationing of diesel fuel, to offset what the government says is just a few days' supply.

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