Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1278, (14 - 20 January 2016)
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1278, (14 - 20 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

What Egyptians want from parliament

Egyptians welcomed the long-awaited parliament with mixed reactions and varying demands, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Following a more than three-year absence, the new parliament opened on 10 January, marking the completion of the third and final aspect of the government’s roadmap following the 2013 removal of former president Mohamed Morsi.

The 596-seat chamber replaces a parliament dominated by Islamists that was dissolved by a court ruling in June 2012. The new parliament thus has a lot of catching up to do. At the same time, Egyptians have a lot of demands to improve their living and economic conditions. Al-Ahram Weekly took to the street for views and reaction.

Salah Mansour, a 50-year-old employee, believes that the parliament has a lot of thorny issues that the man on the street hopes can be solved. “The parliament should search for solutions to the problem of unemployment that faces many youths,” Mansour, who has two unemployed sons, said.

Providing new job opportunities should be in parallel with amending legislation that aims to abolish favouritism, he said, allowing youths to be employed instead on the basis of efficiency and abilities.

Samira, a housewife in her forties, said parliament should deal with the high cost of living. “Rising prices is one of the biggest problems that people are suffering from. I hope that high prices, which are burning a hole in our pockets, can go down somehow,” she said. She also stressed the importance of improving the level of health care, especially health insurance.

In line with Samira’s demand, Ahmed Sayed, a 52-year-old accountant, argues that health insurance and price hikes are the biggest problems Egyptians suffer from. He also referred to the problem of education.

“Standards and schools should be improved,” Sayed said. “For decades, we have been hearing that education in Egypt is poor and needs to improve but the question is when the reform will begin.”

Mervat Hegazi, 66, had a different take. “I call on the parliament to increase pensions, which do not match the high cost of living,” Hegazi said. “My husband is dead and I have three sons while my monthly pension is not more than LE1,000 from which I should pay the gas, electricity and water bills, as well as provide for my sons. They were forced to leave school to work to help me in the living expenses.”

When it comes to the younger generation, their demands centred on freedom, dignity and justice, reminiscent of the calls made at the start of the 2011 Revolution. “We need nothing more than the true meaning of freedom instead of just being a word uttered in the statements made by officials,” Ahmed Nagi, a 22-year-old student, said.

“We find many who were jailed because of their views or because of their intention to protest, in complete contradiction with the rights written in the new constitution. Hence, we are waiting for the old laws to be amended, like the Protest Law, and new legislation to guarantee the freedom of expression and opinion.”

“Our demands are well known,” Ahmed Abdel-Fattah, a 31-year-old engineer, said. “They are mainly justice, dignity and freedom. People die in accidents and disasters without any officials being held accountable. This makes us feel that the citizen has no value.”

He continued, “We don’t have a single official who was held accountable for the hundreds of youths killed during the 25 January Revolution and so justice hasn’t been realised so far.

“In the new parliament we find members who openly admit that they deem the 25 January Revolution a conspiracy. Moreover, many of [former president Hosni] Mubarak’s regime members are now members of parliament that supposedly will achieve the goals of the revolution. It is a parody.”

Within the 596-seat parliament, six political parties led by officials linked to Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) won 25 seats.

During the procedural session on Sunday, controversial lawyer Mortada Mansour, known for his ardent support for President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s government, went off script by refusing to take the constitutional oath. He argued that he could not vow to respect the preamble of the constitution, which supports the 2011 uprising against Mubarak, an event that he described as “a conspiracy”.

Following a lengthy argument with parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, and attempted appeasement by fellow members, Mansour agreed to deliver the oath, but made a final remark to explain that it did not reflect his personal beliefs.

Feedback from Walid Zenhom, 33, was in keeping with the sarcasm expressed in social media aimed at parliamentary members during the inaugural session, especially Mansour’s breach and conversations between members that were inadvertently picked up on open microphones.

“I have no demand from the parliament other than it broadcasts its sessions live,” Zenhom said. “There is no real opposition within the parliament as almost all of its members are supporters of the regime. Thus, all I can see evokes satire and laughter.”

Supporters of TV political satirist Bassem Youssef said they wished his show had not been cancelled so that he could address the parliament in his own satirical way. “The House of Representatives is neither funny nor a nice performance, but a farce that makes one cry instead of laugh,” Youssef wrote on his Twitter account.

The parliament was the last piece of the three-part roadmap after a new constitution was drawn up and following presidential elections in 2014.

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