Elections for top spots in Egypt's parliamentary committees to take place Sunday

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 15 Oct 2016

Elections for spots within parliament's 25 committees will be held Sunday and Monday, with many expecting a significant shakeup

Egypt Parliament
File Photo: A general view shows members of Egypt's new parliament meeting during their inaugural session in Cairo, Jan. 10, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

Following a procedural sitting on 4 October, Egypt’s parliament will begin its second session on Sunday where elections will take place for top parliamentary committee positions.

According to parliament's internal bylaws, MPs meet at the beginning of each legislative season to elect the senior members of parliament's 25 committees.

Parliament's schedule of debates announced Saturday show that the plenary session on Sunday will be adjourned early so that MPs can elect senior members of the 25 committees, with one head, two deputies, and one secretary-general for each committee.

The results will be officially declared in a plenary session Monday morning.

On Thursday, MPs who wish to become members of certain committees registered their names. Each MP can join no more than two committees, and MPs have already begun jockeying for leading committee posts.

The pro-government parliamentary bloc Support Egypt will meet Saturday evening to name its candidates for the senior committee posts.

The head of the bloc Mohamed El-Sewedi told reporters Saturday that many of its members are looking to become committee heads.

“We will review all the names and see who performed well in the first session and who was not up to expectations,” said El-Sewedi.

Parliament's Human Rights Committee is expected to see a major shake-up. Its chairman Anwar El-Sadat, the head of the Reform and Development Party, resigned a week before the end of parliament's first session last August.

El-Sadat's resignation came after parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal joined a number of MPs in accusing him of seeking to promote “Western agendas.”

In a statement to reporters on 30 August, Sadat said he had tendered his resignation "because of lack of cooperation from parliament's speaker, secretariat-general and the government in responding to memorandums submitted by the Human Rights Committee aimed at addressing complaints raised by citizens, as well as “parliament's failure to communicate with the outside world over implementing Egypt's international commitments and defending its image abroad.”

Mahmoud Makhaleef, the Committee's current deputy head, told MPs that he intends to stand for the post of head of the Human Rights Committee.

However, Makhaleef is an independent MP who lacks backing from the Support Egypt bloc. Makhaleef told reporters he has high hopes that his good performance in the first session and his stance against El-Sadat's “Western agendas” will be enough for MPs to elect him as the committee's new head.

Two other MPs from rival political parties – Akram Qortam, the chairman of the Conservative Party, and Alaa Abed, parliamentary spokesman of the Free Egyptians Party – also announced that their intention to run.

Rumours are also circulating that El-Sadat will run again and that he has support among many of the committee's members who approved of his policy based on reinforcing relations with Western human rights organisations.

The Support Egypt bloc surprised all on Saturday by announcing that it will support re-electing Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa, an appointed MP and secretary-general of the Wafd Party, as head of the committee of legislative and constitutional affairs.

The bloc's parliamentary spokesman Alaa Abdel-Moneim, who announced last week that he would compete against Abu Shoqa, said on Saturday that he has decided to withdraw, opting instead to support Abu Shoqa.

High-profile MPs Saad El-Gammal and Kamal Amer are expected to be re-elected again as heads of the Arab Affairs Committee and the National Security Committee.

El-Gammal, a leading founder of the Support Egypt bloc, is well-known for his anti-Western positions. As head of the Arab Affairs Committee, El-Gammal issued a series of fiery statements where he made call for former US president George W. Bush and former UK prime minister Tony Blair be put on trial for war crimes for “masterminding the destructive war against Iraq.”

El-Gammal also seized an Arab parliamentary meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh last week to describe the new JASTA law, issued by the US congress this month, as reflecting “American bullying in its best form.”

Kamal Amer, the former head of military intelligence and parliamentary spokesman of the pro-government Guardians of the Nation Party, is also expected to be re-elected as chairman of the Defence and National Security Committee.

Some sources say the leading members of other parliamentary committees, especially those in charge of economic portfolios, are expected to change.

The two committees on foreign relations and African relations are expected to see stiff competition among MPs.

Former foreign minister Mohamed El-Orabi told reporters that he has high hopes that Support Egypt will back his re-election bid.

Some sources say businessman Ahmed Said, former head of the Free Egyptians Party, intends to stand against El-Orabi.

Said played a role last summer in containing tension with the European Union over Egypt's human rights record and the January murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo.

Some also expect that independent MP Mostafa El-Guindi will be elected head of the African Affairs Committee instead of former intelligence officer and member of the Free Egyptians Party Hatem Patshat.

El-Guindi has wide-ranging communications with African countries, especially Ethiopia, whose relations with Egypt has been strained due to its plan to build a dam on a tributary to the River Nile.

El-Guindi led many parliamentary and popular delegations to Ethiopia to help contain tensions with Egypt.

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