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Egypt's new parliament to elect speaker and two deputies Sunday

The inaugural sitting of Egypt's newly-elected parliament Sunday will be mainly procedural, confined to the election of a speaker and two deputies

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 9 Jan 2016
In this Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 file photo, officials are seen in the People's Assembly as final preparations are made for an opening session of parliament, in Cairo (AP)
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After four years of political turmoil, Egypt's new parliament, the House of Representatives, is due to hold its procedural sitting on Sunday.

The meeting will be the first of its kind after the country's two previous parliaments were dissolved — the first in February 2011 and the second in June 2012 — and after former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted from office in July 2013.

The meeting also represents the completion of the third stage of a political roadmap adopted since the removal of Morsi. The other stages included the passing of a new constitution, in January 2014, and the election of a president, former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, in June 2014.

According to Ahmed Saadeddin, secretary-general of parliament, the opening sitting will be held at 9am and is expected to continue for seven hours in one day.

"There will be six items of debate on the agenda of the inaugural sitting Sunday," Saaeddin told reporters in a press conference Saturday.

"At the beginning," explained Saadeddin, "Bahaeddin Abu Shuka, secretary-general of Wafd Party and an appointed MP, will be invited by the house's secretariat-general to chair the inaugural meeting in accordance with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's decree No 561/2016," said Saadeddin.

According to parliament's internal regulations, the opening procedural meeting should be chaired by three members: the oldest MP as chairman, and the two youngest MPs as deputies.

Abu Shuka, 77, is considered the most senior parliamentarian, while Noha Al-Himili, a 25-year-old female MP from the Upper Egypt governorate of Beni Suef, and Hassan Hassanein, a 25-year-old MP from the Nile Delta governorate of Qalioubiya, were selected as the two youngest MPs.

Saadeddin also explained that before entering the main meeting hall, each MP will be allocated a certain number so he or she can use it to operate a newly-installed electronic voting system in the next meetings. "He or she will be also required to give a copy of her fingerprints so that he or she can use his or her electronic voting card," said Saadeddin.

Second on the agenda, Saadeddin added, Abu Shuka will be required to read out eight decrees on parliamentary elections. "All of these decrees were issued by the High Elections Committee (HEC) that took charge of supervising the polls between 17 October and 16 December 2015," said Saadeddin.

Third, added Saadeddin, Abu Shuka will also have to read out presidential decree No 560/2015 on the appointment of 28 public figures in accordance with Article 102 of the constitution.

Saadeddin estimates that the above procedures will take around half an hour only. "Next," Saaeddin added, "comes the fourth item on the agenda of debates; the necessity that each MP take the national oath in accordance with Article 104 of the constitution."

Saadeddin said: "We estimate that each MP will take 25 seconds only to read out the oath — or a total of around five hours for all MPs (596) to finish this long procedure completely."

According to Article 104, each MP is obliged to read out the following national oath: "I swear by Almighty God to loyally uphold the republican system, respect the constitution and the law, fully observe the interests of the people, and to safeguard the independence of the nation and integrity and unity of its land."

Deputies affiliated with the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party told reporters Saturday that they will read the oath as it is and without any changes. In 2012, Islamist and Salafist MPs surprised all by adding the words "without violation of principles of Islamic Sharia" at the end of the oath.

Once the oath-taking procedure is finished, MPs will be required to elect a speaker and two deputies. "MPs will be asked to cast their votes in glass boxes as it will be difficult to operate the electronic voting system on the opening day," said Saadeddin.

As many as five MPs have so far expressed their wish to run for the post of speaker: Ali Abdel-Al, a constitutional law professor with Ain Shams University; Ali Al-Moselhi, a former minister of social solidarity; Osama Al-Abd, a former president of Al-Azhar University; independent leftist MP Kamal Ahmed; and TV host Tawfik Okasha.

Al-Abd announced Saturday that he decided not to run for the speaker's post in favor of supporting Abdel-Al. Both Al-Abd and Abdel-Al are members of a pro-Sisi bloc, the "Pro-Egyptian State Coalition."

In an internal election Saturday, MPs affiliated with the pro-Sisi bloc voted in favour of nominating Abdel-Al for the post. The bloc, including around 380 MPs, announced that Abdel-Al will be its official nominee for the post in parliament's inaugural meeting Sunday. The liberal Al-Wafd Party also said it will support Abdel-Al.

A number of pro-Sisi bloc MPs have also announced that they will run for the two posts of deputy speakers. These include journalist Mostafa Bakri, Coptic female politician Margaret Azer, former MP Al-Sayed Al-Sherif, former MP Alaa Abdel-Moneim, and Nasserist female MP Nashwa Al-Deeb. Al-Wafd Party said its candidate for deputy speaker will be MP Soliman Wahdan, while the Free Egyptians Party announced that its candidate for the deputy speaker post will be MP Hatem Batshat.

In an internal election Saturday, pro-Sisi bloc MPs voted in favour of nominating Al-Sayed Al-Sherif and Alaa Abdel as their favoured nominees for the posts of the two deputies.

Saadeddin indicated that a committee including seven MPs from different political factions will be formed to supervise the election of the parliament speaker and the two deputies. "The committee will include two MPs representing independents, in addition to five MPs representing five political parties with the highest number of seats," said Saadeddin.

"If the speaker or his two deputies were not elected from the first round, there will be a second round among those who got the highest number of votes," said Saadeddin.

As long as the speaker is elected, he will be asked to chair the meeting, opening the door for MPs who wish to run for the speaker's two deputies positions.

The election of a speaker and two deputies will be followed by different public speeches. "The elected speaker himself, his two deputies, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Magdi Al-Agati, representatives from independents and spokesmen of the main victorious political parties, will be required each to deliver a speech about their view for the new parliament," said Saadeddin.

The schedule of debates show that there will be no election for the leading posts of parliament's 19 committees. Minister Al-Agati said parliament's internal regulations have to be amended first to go in line with the new constitution. "These regulations, passed in 1979, only apply to the election of a speaker and two deputies," said Al-Agati.

Saadeddin explained that while the existing internal regulations state that there should be elections for the posts of a speaker and two deputies at the beginning of each parliamentary session, the new constitution states that the elected speaker shall be elected one time and retain his post throughout parliament's five-year term.

Saadeddin dismissed reports that certain seats on the left will be allocated to opposition MPs while seats on the right will be filled by majority MPs. "As you cannot say for now who are the majority MPs and who are the opposition MPs, each deputy will be allowed to sit where he likes," said Saadeddin.

There are strong rumours that the house's committees will be increased from 19 to 30.

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