Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Facing an uphill task

Parliamentary elections have ended and the challenges facing the coming parliament are about to begin, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s long-delayed parliamentary elections closed yesterday and the opening session of the new parliament is expected to be convened at the end of this month or in early 2016.

Khaled Al-Sadr, secretary-general of the House of Representatives, announced on Monday that candidates who won seats in the second stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, held between 21 November and 2 December in 13 governorates, will be able to obtain parliamentary membership cards between 6 and 10 December.

Earlier this week, Al-Sadr met with three high-profile figures associated with the pro-Sisi For the Love of Egypt coalition: coalition coordinator Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, journalist Mustafa Bakri and former information minister Osama Heikal.

Bakri told Al-Ahram Weekly that the visit was to discuss arrangements for the opening session of parliament.

“As the election’s biggest winner, the coalition thought it important to meet with Al-Sadr as soon as possible to discuss the organisation of the opening session,” said Bakri.

The coalition will begin holding talks with other forces, once final results are announced at the end of this week, with the goal of forming a parliamentary majority, said Bakri.

“We believe that when people voted for our coalition they were voting for President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and so we will act as a back-up force for the president and his project of rebuilding Egypt after four years of chaos.”

Bakri identified three immediate challenges for the new parliament. “First, there must be a strong speaker who can direct debates and impose discipline on an unprecedented number — 596 — of MPs. Talks are underway between various political forces to choose a new speaker, two deputies and the heads of 19 parliamentary committees.”

Candidates who won seats in the first stage say there are three frontrunners for the job of speaker: former interim president and current chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) Adli Mansour, veteran politician and head of the 50-member committee that drafted the constitution Amr Moussa, and current Justice Minister Ahmed Al-Zend.

Bakri, like many newly elected MPs, favours Al-Zend. “He is a forceful figure who enjoys wide popularity among new MPs, who recall his battles against the Muslim Brotherhood and former president Mohamed Morsi when he was chairman of the Judges’ Club.”

The new house also faces the uphill task of reviewing all legislation passed since Morsi was removed from office in July 2013, and amending parliament’s internal regulations.

Article 156 of the constitution stipulates that any laws issued by the president while parliament is not in session must be discussed and ratified by a new parliament within 15 days of its sitting.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Magdi Al-Agati said last week that 220 laws have been passed since Al-Sisi came to office a year ago.

Fawzia Abdel-Sattar, a professor of constitutional law with Cairo University and former head of parliament’s legal affairs committee, told the Weekly that parliament has two options in approaching this task.

“It could endorse or reject all new legislation in principle within 15 days and leave detailed discussion of the articles of each law until later, or it could restrict its oversight in the first 15 days to the most important presidential decrees, those that toughened the penalties for terrorist crimes, for example.”

Abdel-Sattar insists that the second option is the most constitutionally correct because “Article 159 states that in extraordinary circumstances the president can take urgent measures while parliament is not in session but any laws that are a response to extraordinary conditions must be debated and voted on by the new parliament within 15 days of its opening meeting.”

Abdel-Sattar also agrees that parliament’s internal regulations, passed in 1979, must be reviewed in light of the dramatic political upheavals Egypt has undergone.

Said Abdel-Sattar, “The regulations were drafted in light of the 1971 constitution, which gave MPs limited supervisory powers. Thirty-six years later, and after a new constitution granted MPs sweeping supervisory and legislative powers, the regulations need a radical overhaul.”

Preliminary results of the second, and final, stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections suggest that the Free Egyptians, Future of Homeland and Wafd parties will emerge as winners. Having won 91 seats in the first stage, the three parties, between them, had 136 candidates in this week’s run-offs.

Turnout figures are likely to remain unchanged, with slightly more voters going to the polls in rural Nile Delta governorates than in Cairo and Suez Canal cities.

The run-off round, held on Monday and Tuesday for Egyptians abroad and on Tuesday and Wednesday for residents, saw 426 candidates competing for 213 seats in 99 constituencies.

In the first round of the second stage of the election, 2,893 were in competition to fill 222 seats reserved for independent candidates, and 195 battled it out for the 60 seats reserved for party lists. For the Love of Egypt swept all 60 party-list seats. Only nine of the 222 seats reserved for independent candidates were won outright in the first round.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, had the highest number of candidates in the run-offs, with 52 out of 110 making it to the second round. It was followed by the Future of Homeland, with 50 out of its 89 candidates in the run-offs.

Forty-three candidates of the 135 affiliated with the Wafd Party qualified for the run-off round.

Heikal, who won on the For the Love of Egypt ticket, told reporters while visiting parliament on Monday, “The three victorious secular political forces are the ones that form the backbone of our coalition,”

He continued, “These three forces, alongside other secular factions and in coordination with independents, will be able to form the biggest bloc in the coming parliament.”

Preliminary figures also showed Mubarak-era politicians among the elections’ big winners, with many qualifying for the run-offs.

“There is no shame in like-minded forces seeking a majority in parliament,” said Heikal. “This happens in democratic countries where majority blocs and parties are a necessity.”

He continued, “Allegations that our civilian bloc will be a replica of Mubarak’s NDP or act like the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party are unfounded and baseless.”

Al-Ahram political analyst Wahid Abdel-Meguid has no doubt that the coming parliament will be dominated by the three parties that led the polls.

“These form the core of the pro-Sisi For the Love of Egypt coalition, which won all 120 seats reserved for party lists in the two-stage polls,” said Abdel-Meguid.

“What unites these victorious secular political parties, the Mubarak-era MPs and the independents with no clear party affiliation is their hatred of the banned Muslim Brotherhood and the grudge they hold against the 25th January Revolution that forced Mubarak from office. They are also anti-American.”

Said Abdel-Meguid, “This will be a parliament that hates revolutions and defends the status quo.”

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