The head of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) and ex-interim president Adly Mansour turned down a request by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to join the parliament, Mansour told reporters on Tuesday.
Mansour said he made it clear that he prefers to maintain his position at the top of Egypt’s highest court until the end of his term.
Mansour, who served as interim president after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 3 July 2013, was nominated by many of the newly elected members of parliament to be among the list of the 28 MPs the president is constitutionally mandated to name. This would have been a step to elect him as the parliament speaker during its first session, which is expected to be held on 10 January 2016.
The newly elected parliament should pass all laws ratified under Mansour and El-Sisi within 15 days of its first assembly.
The spokesman for the SCC, Ragab Selim, dismissed on Monday media rumours that Mansour had accepted the president's offer and that he would be attending on Tuesday a hearing for some cases filed before the SCC.
Mansour's rejection comes after several MPs told parliamentary correspondents Monday that Mansour would be on the list presidential appointees.
Sayed Farrag, a pro-Sisi MP from Cairo's Hadayek El-Qubba district, told reporters that a large number of MPs urged El-Sisi on Monday to appoint Mansour in the coming parliament so that he could be the speaker of the House of Representatives – or Egypt's lower house parliament.
"In this message, we informed El-Sisi that a lot of MPs believe that Mansour has the constitutional and legislative experience necessary to be the speaker of Egypt's new parliament and that there is wide support for this request among MPs," said Farag.
Parliamentarian Margaret Azer also told reporters that MPs affiliated with a pro-Sisi parliamentary bloc entitled the Pro-Egyptian State Coalition urged El-Sisi and other state officials to exert pressure on Mansour to accept the appointment in parliament.
Informed sources said El-Sisi held two meetings with Mansour, on Saturday and Monday, to discuss whether he would accept appointment in parliament. "In these two meetings, El-Sisi exerted pressure on Mansour to accept appointment in parliament, in addition to seeking his opinion about what other names should be appointed in the new parliament," one pro-Sisi bloc MP said.
After a meeting on Monday night, officials of the Pro-Egyptian State Coalition told reporters that they highly welcome the appointment of Mansour in the new parliament. Sameh Seif El-Yazal, coordinator of the coalition, said that "after reviewing the list of figures who announced they would run for the post of the speaker, MPs agreed that they all lack support and that a high-calibre figure like Mansour is highly needed for this position," said El-Yazal.
El-Sisi, who is mandated by the constitution to appoint five percent of the total number of MPs in parliament (28 members), will announce the list of presidential appointees in a few days, or before parliament holds its procedural sitting in two weeks.
Only two MPs – TV host Tawfik Okasha and former president of El-Azhar University Osama El-Abd – have so far announced that they would run for the post of the parliament's speaker, but they do not enjoy much support among the majority of MPs.
El-Yazal told reporters on Monday night that "the pro-Sisi bloc would wait until the names of presidential appointees are announced to announce a decision about its favourite candidate for the post of the speaker.
"If Mansour or any other high-profile constitutional figure is not appointed, we would meet to announce our candidate for the speakership post," said El-Yazal.
Some MPs said that Ali Abdel-Al, a constitutional law professor who won a seat in the Upper Egypt governorate of Aswan, could be nominated for the post. Mostafa Bakri, a journalist who won a ticket to parliament on the In love of Egypt electoral lists, said "Abdel-Al could serve as speaker of parliament because he has enough constitutional and legal experience for this post."
Other names proposed for the post of the speaker include Minister of Justice Ahmed El-Zind and former foreign minister Amr Moussa.
The speaker of Egypt's new parliament will be required to tackle a number of key issues, at the top of which is whether parliament, according to Article 156 of the constitution, should vote on more than 400 laws passed by the president since 2013 in a matter of 15 days.Some of these laws were passed by interim president Mansour.
The controversial article left political analysts and constitutional law professors divided, with some insisting that Article 156 deals with decrees and laws passed to matters of urgent necessity only, such as the new anti-terror law, while parliament was not session. Others, such as the liberal Free Egyptians party, say Article 156 is clear that all laws passed since former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi has been removed from office should be put to a vote in 15 days.
On Tuesday, MP Anwar El-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party, asked the Supreme Constitutional Court to give a final binding opinion on how Article 156 should be implemented.
"This is important ahead of parliament's procedural sitting, expected on 10 January, in order for MPs not to face disastrous surprises on that day," said El-Sadat.
Magdi El-Agati, the minister of parliamentary affairs, told the official Middle East News Agency on Tuesday that parliament's opening procedural session is expected to be held on 10 January or after the Coptic Christmas holiday on 7 January.