Candidates who won seats in the first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections began on Tuesday to obtain their parliamentary membership cards and some of them have already revealed their intent to make some crucial ammendments to the 2014 Constitution.
Out of 213 candidates who won seats in the first stage, held between 17 and 28 October in 14 governorates, as many as 60 candidates arrived at the headquarters of the Egyptian lower house parliament - or the House of Representatives - to obtain their parliamentary membership cards.
Parliament's secretary-general Khaled Al-Sadr, a former army general, told reporters that each MP would be obliged to fill a special membership form, giving a detailed statement about his personal life and career.
Al-Sadr also disclosed that for the first time each MP would be granted an Ipad to help with keeping in regular contact with the house's secretariat-general.
"An MP will use this Ipad to have updated information about the House's schedule of plenary and committee meetings and send requests to the house's secretariat-general," said Al-Sadr.
Egypt's new House of Representatives will comprise of 596 MPs, meaning that the total cost of Ipads would reach around LE2.5 million.
The new MPs who were keen to receive their parliamentary membership cards said that their first priority in parliament is to amend the constitution so that the president's term in office can be increased to more than four years.
According to article 140 of Egypt's new constitution, passed in January 2014, the president cannot stay in office for more than two terms, with each one four years or a total of eight years.
MP Shadi Abul-Ela, a former police officer who was elected an independent in the upper Egypt governorate of Al-Minya, told reporters that a president's one term in office must be increased to five rather than four years. "A term of four years in office is suitable for a country like the United States but is bad for a country like Egypt that is in desperate need of stability and a forceful president," said Abul-Ela.
Abul-Ela stressed that his request does not aim to serve incumbent president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. "Please look into the matter in objective terms," said Abul-Ela, arguing "an elected president usually devotes the first year of his first term in office to exploring the country's problems, while he takes the fourth year to preparing himself to run for another term in presidential elections." "This means that only two years are left for him to find solutions to the country's problems and this is by no means enough or fair," said Abul-Ela.
Saeed Hassanein, another independent MP representing the constituency of Kerdasa in the governorate of Giza, also insisted "a term of four years in office is by no means enough for any president to deliver in political and economic terms."
"We know that the real objective of article 140 of the constitution is to prevent presidents from staying in office for life and to ensure peaceful rotation of power," said Hassanein, but adding that "the principle of only two terms in office is good like it is the case in America, but each term should be increased to five years and this will be enough to secure the goals of article 140 – that is giving the president enough time to deliver and ensuring that he will stay for a fixed period of time."
Mokhtar Dessouki, another independent MP from the upper Egypt governorate of Assuit, said "the constitution has to be amended not only to increase the president's years in office, but also to grant the president greater powers." "The new constitution stripped the president of many powers that he should exercise so that he is able to deliver," said Dessouki, a former member of former president Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
New MPs, however, differed over who should be Egypt's new parliamentary speaker. Abul-Ela said he does not favour former interim president Adly Mansour or former foreign minister Amr Moussa to be the new speaker. "I rather favour Justice Minister Ahmed Al-Zind to be the next speaker," said Abul-Ela, adding "Al-Zind is an anti-Muslim Brotherhood firebrand, not to mention that he is a forceful figure who can impose his say on a parliament with 596 seats and with new powers."
Hesham Magdi, another independent MP from the upper Egypt governorate of Beni Suef, also told reporters that he is in favor of amending article 140 to increase the president's years in office. Magdi heaped praise on president El-Sisi, insisting that he is independent and will be keen to cooperate with him for the public interest of all Egyptians. Magdi also believes that the next parliamentary speaker should be an elected MP. "This issue should be left to MPs to decide and to elect the one who gains a majority of votes," said Magdi.
Most new MPs, however, criticised the performance of the new government of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail. Magdi described Ismail's government as very weak and lacking in goals and objectives. "Our first role is to review this government's statement of policy and see whether it deserves confidence," said Magdi.
Most MPs opened fire on private television channels and newspapers, accusing them of launching a hostile campaign against the new parliament.
All MPs criticised Secretary-general Al-Sadr's decision that each MP be allocated a certain seat with a certain figure. They said MPs should be left free to sit where they like in the main plenary meeting hall.