After a stormy debate on the Egyptian parliament's new internal by-laws on Monday, dozens of MPs affiliated with various political parties walked out of the chamber in protest against what they called "the monopolistic and unfair practices of speaker Ali Abdel-Al."
Around 100 MPs accused Abdel-Al of shaped the debate in a way that only serves the interests of the pro-government parliamentary bloc entitled the Support Egypt coalition.
Abdel-Al won his seat as a candidate with the Support Egypt bloc and ran for speaker as the coalition's nominee.
The Support Egypt coalition has around 270 MPs, forming roughly 45 per cent of parliament.
In a statement to reporters, the protesting MPs said it would be fruitless to participate in more debate on parliament's new internal by-laws as long as speaker Abdel-Al insists on taking politically biased stands.
"As parliament speaker, he must be neutral and unbiased at all times," said the statement. "But the problem now is that Abdel-Al insists on imposing his own political viewpoints on parliament."
The statement accused Abdel-Al of skewing the debate on articles 95, 96 and 97 – which regulate the formation of parliamentary blocs – to serve the Support Egypt coalition.
They also charged that Abdel-Al interfered to ensure that Article 97 require that a parliamentary bloc include at least 25 per cent of MPs in order to gain official recognition, rather than 20 per cent as was originally stipulated .
"Changing the stipulation to 25 percent makes it hard for several political parties to form parliamentary blocs," said the statement, adding that "even worse, Article 97 also stipulates that the members of each coalition must come from at least 15 governorates [out of a total 27], and that MPs are not allowed to be members of more than one bloc."
Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa, an appointed MP and the head of the committee that took charge of amending parliament's internal by-laws to go in line with the new constitution, strongly defended the text of Article 97.
"Article 97 was worded to go in line with articles 5 and 146 of the new constitution, which state that the multi-party system must form the basis of political life in Egypt," said Abu Shoqa, adding that "coalitions are necessary to bring political parties with similar positions under one umbrella and help them form a majority government in the end."
Abu Shoqa argued that all the world’s parliaments stipulate a certain minimum requirement for blocs to be officially recognised.
"This usually ranges between 20 per cent and 25 per cent," said Abu Shoqa. "Laws regulating the formation of political parties also stipulate that for a political party to be officially recognised, it must include at least 1,000 members, with 300 coming from at least 10 governorates."
Abu Shoqa said that since independents form around 60 per cent of MPs in Egypt's new parliament, the committee had initially agreed that "a 20 per cent minimum is good to help form political coalitions in parliament."
During the debate, however, it was proposed by the Support Egypt coalition that the minimum be increased to 25 per cent.
The proposal saw more than 330 MPs in favour, but the dissenting MPs said the vote could not have been correct as that number of MPs was not present at the time.
Around 120 out of a total 440 articles of parliament's new internal by-laws have so far been approved.