The Future of Homeland Party, set up in 2015 to defend the policies of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, won 57 seats in the last parliamentary election making it the second largest party in parliament, behind the Free Egyptians with 65 seats.
But is that about to change? The announcement that 200 independent and party-based MPs intend to join the party appears to suggest the Future of Homeland will soon hold a parliamentary majority. The arithmetic looks unassailable. The problem is the law.
Salah Hassaballah, parliamentary spokesperson of the Support Egypt bloc, currently parliament’s majority force, told reporters in a press conference that the coalition would not give up its crown easily.
“The decision of 200 MPs to join the Future of Homeland does not mean anything,” said Hassaballah. “Everyone knows the constitution and the House of Representatives’ law prevents MPs from switching allegiance once they are elected.”
Mohamed Al-Sewidi, head of the Support Egypt bloc, told MPs on Sunday that recent national newspaper reports claiming Support Egypt had lost its majority in parliament were wrong. “I assure you all that Support Egypt is strong and united and still has the majority in this parliament,” he said.
MP and journalist Mustafa Bakri also attacked the putative formation of the Future of Homeland coalition, telling MPs on Monday that it will serve only to “polarise parliament into two camps”.
“I wonder why this coalition was created, and at a time when MPs who support President Al-Sisi and his economic reform policies have been asked to stand united,” pondered Bakri.
It is generally accreted the Support Egypt coalition is the one entity to hold together MPs keen to defend the supreme interests of Egypt and the bold economic reform policies needed to secure the country’s future, claimed Bakri. “Now we are surprised to find some MPs seeking to form another coalition, in pursuit of their personal ambitions and interests though they claim to support national interests and the president’s reform programme.”
Taher Abu Zeid, a leading member of the Support Egypt coalition, insisted “our coalition was created to stay and it will remain strong and united in defence of our country.”
“Nobody can deny Support Egypt has played the leading role in defending parliament and standing up to its critics.”
House Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal weighed in on Monday, telling MPs that “parliament is strong, united and solid, due largely to the fact that most political parties have representatives in the House.”
Abdel-Aal insisted the formation of the Future of Homeland coalition would not impact on parliament. “Press reports claiming the coalition will change the balance in parliament are unfounded,” he said.
Last week Future of Homeland head Ashraf Rashad revealed that 150 independent MPs who are members of the For the Sake of Egypt Association had decided to join the party. Rahsad also said 50 MPs affiliated with the Free Egyptians had also joined.
“The decision of 200 MPs to join the ranks of the Future of Homeland Party came after they found the Support Egypt coalition was consistently underperforming,” claimed Rashad.
Informed sources say Alaa Abed, head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee and now deputy head of the Future of Homeland Party, will hold discussions with independent MPs in a bid to help them join the new grouping.
Hossam Al-Khouli, secretary-general of the Future of Homeland, adds the party will do eveything in its power to swell its ranks in parliament.
“We hope when the general congress of the party is held in November we will hold the seats required to make us the majority party in parliament,” said Al-Khouli.
Abed was originally a member of the Free Egyptians, Al-Khouli of the Wafd Party.
There has been growing speculation the Future of Homeland Party is being funded by a coterie of wealthy businessmen.
Reports have appeared claiming steel tycoon Ahmed Abu Hashima and billionaire Mohamed Mansour are the two biggest funders of the party. A third businessman, real estate tycoon and American Chamber in Egypt member Mohamed Manzour has been appointed the party’s second deputy head.
Sources also say businessmen Farag Amer, an industrialist from Alexandria and head of parliament’s Youth Committee, and steel tycoon Mohamed Al-Garhi, are major donors.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 June 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Parliamentary precedent