Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

A century and a half of parliament

The Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh will host a one-day celebration to mark the 150 anniversary of parliamentary life in Egypt. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Aal informed MPs a week ago that a celebration was being planned on 9 October to mark a century and a half of parliamentary life in Egypt.

The event, to be held at Sharm El-Sheikh’s Conference Centre, “will showcase both the historic role of parliament in Egyptian political and public life as well as underlining Egypt’s political stability and progress towards accountable and effective governance,” said Abdel-Aal.

Ahmed Saadeddin, Secretary General of the House of Representatives, revealed details of the one-day celebration on Saturday. According to Saadeddin “speakers from a number of parliaments overseas will be invited to attend the celebration”.

“Speakers of the Russian, American, European, Chinese and Japanese parliaments top the list of invitees,” said Saadeddin. “The speakers of Arab parliaments and heads of the International, Arab and African Parliamentary Unions are also being invited.”

The one-day parliamentary celebration will be  attended by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and all of Egypt’s 596 MPs.

“President Al-Sisi and Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal will deliver speeches, to be followed by a short documentary on Egypt’s 150-year parliamentary life,” said Saadeddin.

An exhibition will be held on the sidelines of the parliamentary celebration. “It will be organised by leading tourist and commercial companies and aims to promote Egypt’s tourist and business potential among guests,” said Saadeddin.

Earlier this month the Egyptian embassy in Washington announced the launch of an advertising campaign under the title “150 years of Egyptian parliamentary life…Meet Egypt’s new parliament”. The campaign, which involves advertising space on the sides of buses across Washington, will coincide with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri’s participation in the next month’s fourth Nuclear Summit.

Meanwhile, 20 Egyptian MPs left for New York on Sunday to promote Egypt’s recent economic and political reforms and present invitations to the Sharm El-Sheikh celebration to members of the US Congress and other international parliamentarians attending the UN General Assembly. The parliamentary delegation to New York comprises a mix of pro-government and opposition MPs.

Solaf Darwish, an MP from the Nile Delta governorate of Qalioubiya, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the delegation includes MPs from across the political spectrum.

“We have pro-government and opposition MPs as well as members affiliated to the Arab Affairs, Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs, Media, Human Rights and Religious Affairs Committees,” said Darwish, a member of the Defenders of the Nation Party.

The delegation includes leftist opposition MP and film director Khaled Youssef, independent journalist Abdel-Rehim Ali and Al-Ahram political analyst Emad Gad, a representative of the Free Egyptians Party. Female MPs include journalist Nashwa Al-Deeb, head of the Tourism Committee Sahar Talaat Mustafa, and Deputy Head of the Foreign Relations Committee Dahlia Youssef. Youssef is also  head of the newly-formed Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association.

Youssef told reporters that “the Egyptian parliamentary delegation will hold a conference to rally support for Egypt’s new political and economic reforms as well as alerting attention to the celebration aimed at marking the 150th anniversary of Egypt’s parliament next month”.

“The delegation is scheduled to attend Al-Sisi’s speech before the UNGA this week, meet with US Congress members and other parliamentarians and engage in proactive parliamentary diplomacy.”

Speaker Abdel-Aal told MPs on 6 September that the new parliament, which began sitting on 10 January, is the most empowered and diverse parliamentary body in Egypt’s history.

“Women made extraordinary gains and now hold 89 seats in the House of Representatives, the highest level of female representation in parliament’s 150-year history. And the same is true of Christians,” said Abdel-Aal.

The history of Egypt’s  Western-style parliament, the first in the Arab World and Africa, dates back to 22 October 1866  when the 75-MP Council of Consultative Deputies (Maglis Shura Al-Nuwab) was formed. The council, opened during the reign of Khedive Ismail (1863-1879), held its first meeting on 25 November 1866.

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