Will Egypt's new parliament speaker be 'appointed' by the president?

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 15 Dec 2015

Political analysts predict that two public figures – former ‎foreign minister Amr Moussa, and current justice ‎minister Ahmed El-Zend – are most likely to be among ‎the appointees elected as ‎speaker of the new parliament

The parliament building
View of the Egyptian parliament building in Cairo, Egypt, June 14, 2012 (Reuters)

Political analysts expect that the speaker of Egypt's new ‎parliament - or the House of Representatives - will be on the top of a list of 28 high-profile ‎figures to be appointed next week by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. ‎

According to the constitution (article 102), El-Sisi is expected next week to ‎appoint 28 public figures (5 per cent) in parliament, thus ‎bringing the number of MPs to a final 596. The article stipulates that at least half of the appointees ‎are women, that they are not members of one political ‎faction, and that they are high performers in their professional field.‎

Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary polls will close this ‎week with the election of 13 deputies in four ‎constituencies. So far, and after two months, 555 ‎candidates have secured seats, with 316 as ‎independents and 239 as party-affiliated MPs. The ‎election of 13 deputies will bring the number of MPs to ‎a total of 468.

Political analysts predict that two public figures – former ‎foreign minister Amr Moussa, and current justice ‎minister Ahmed El-Zend – are most likely to be among ‎the appointees elected as ‎speaker of the new parliament.

Other figures with long ‎legal and constitutional backgrounds such as Sirri Siam, a ‎former deputy chairman of the Court of Cassation, ‎Egypt's highest judicial authority, and Farouk Sultan, a ‎former chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court ‎‎(SCC) who headed a committee that took charge of ‎supervising 2012's presidential elections in 2012, are ‎also expected to be on the list of appointees so that one ‎of them could become the new speaker.‎

According to article 117 of the new constitution, a ‎speaker and two deputies shall be elected for one or no ‎more than two consecutive legislative seasons only. ‎

Informed sources said Adly Mansour, Egypt's former ‎interim president and the current chairman of the ‎Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) will not be one of ‎the appointees. Sources said Mansour has refused to be ‎appointed, preferring to retain his prestigious position ‎as SCC's head rather than becoming speaker of an ‎‎"unruly" parliament.‎

Rumours are spreading in parliamentary circles that closed-‎door negotiations between electoral coalition entitled ‎‎"For the Love of Egypt," which won 120 party list seat, ‎and President El-Sisi have finally led to the choice of ‎Ain Shams University's constitutional law professor Ali ‎Abdel-Al to be the favourite nominee for the speaker's ‎post. Abdel-Al won a seat in the upper Egypt ‎governorate of Aswan as a candidate on the "For the ‎Love of Egypt" list.‎

Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, coordinator of the "For the Love of ‎Egypt" coalition – whose name changed into "the Pro-‎Egyptian State Coalition – told reporters this week that ‎he has no idea that Abdel-Al will be nominated for the ‎speaker's post.‎

In the meantime, two elected MPs – Tawfik Okasha and ‎Osama Al-Abd – told parliamentary correspondents this ‎week that they have decided to join the battle of ‎running for the office of the speaker of Egypt's coming ‎parliament. Okasha, the owner of the private television ‎channel of Al-Faraeen – and Al-Abd, a former chairman ‎of Al-Azhar University and a graduate of Cairo ‎University's Faculty of Law and Sharia – told reporters ‎that they insist the speaker should be an elected, ‎rather than an appointed, MP.‎

Okasha told Ahram Online that as he is the candidate ‎who won a seat with a record number of votes (94,000 ‎votes) and as he is “the leading public figure who ‎played the greatest role” in removing former Islamist ‎president Mohamed Morsi from office, he is therefore the one ‎most entitled to be the speaker of the new parliament.

‎‎"Egypt's coming parliament is the one that should ‎reflect the ideals of the 30 June Revolution against ‎Muslim Brotherhood rule and as a result the speaker ‎should be the one who played a decisive role in this ‎revolution," said Okasha.‎

Although Okasha obtained his parliamentary ‎membership card five days ago, he has been visiting the ‎House every day since then in a hectic effort aimed at ‎rallying as many MPs as possible behind his bid for the ‎speaker's post.

Other MPs, such as old-time Nasserist ‎MP Kamal Ahmed, told reporters that Okasha has even ‎contacted them by phone in an attempt to gather ‎support for his bid. "But I think that it is better for ‎Okasha to remain as independent MP because in such a ‎case he will be able to defend the 30 June revolution ‎and attack its detractors," said Ahmed.‎

Speaker qualifications

Emad Gad, an Ahram political analyst who is also an ‎elected MP and a leading member of the Free Egyptians ‎party, told Ahram Online that Okasha lacks the ‎adequate legal and constitutional background ‎necessary to make him the speaker of parliament.

‎"Okasha is much more like TV satirist comedian Bassem ‎Youssef and as people like him in this way it is better for ‎him to act like an independent MP," said Gad, insisting ‎that "the coming speaker should be a forceful and ‎independent figure, capable of manipulating an ‎unprecedented and diverse number of 596 MPs, and ‎with deep-rooted legal, constitutional, and political ‎experience." 

"The coming speaker should convey a good ‎image about recent political developments in Egypt and ‎in such as a case he should appoint a high-profile figure with ‎wide political and legal experience rather than a satirist ‎TV anchor," said Gad.‎

Gad dismissed claims that Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic ‎business tycoon who founded the liberal Free Egyptians ‎Party, which got the highest number of seats (65 seats or ‎‎12 per cent) in the recent ballot, will be appointed by ‎President El-Sisi and as a result he will run for the office ‎of the parliamentary speaker.

"I think Sawiris has no ‎interest in becoming a speaker and the fact that the ‎Free Egyptians Party got the highest number of seats ‎does not mean that the coming speaker should be one ‎of its MPs," said Gad.‎

Gad believes that former foreign minister Amr Moussa ‎should be high on the list of presidential appointees. ‎‎"Moussa is a high-profile figure that enjoys wide-scale ‎local, regional and international respect," said Gad, ‎arguing that "Moussa got a lot of political experience ‎when he served as Egypt's top diplomat for almost ten ‎years (1991-2001), not to mention that he proved to be ‎a man with an expansive legal and constitutional background ‎when he was elected chairman of the 50-member ‎committee that drafted Egypt's new constitution in ‎‎2013-2014."‎

Moussa is a graduate of Cairo University's Faculty of Law ‎in 1957-1958 and also served as secretary-general of the ‎Arab League (2001-2011). ‎

Ahmed, however, begs to differ with Gad, arguing that ‎Moussa is too old in age (80 years) to assume a hard-‎working job like speaker of parliament, not to mention ‎that many still view him as a Mubarak-era loyalist.‎

Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, chairman of the leftist Socialist ‎Popular Alliance Party, told Al-Ahram newspaper that ‎the speaker must be a widely respected high-profile ‎figure who helps create a vibrant and powerful – ‎rather than a rubber-stamp and toothless - parliament. ‎‎"Under the Mubarak and Morsi regimes, parliamentary ‎speakers only served as mouthpieces for the ruling ‎parties and this should no longer be the case with the ‎new parliament," said Shukr, arguing that "none of the ‎elected MPs really look up to the post of parliamentary ‎speaker."

"But if a speaker is to be an appointed, this ‎should not mean in any way that he has to be loyal to ‎the president but rather a one who can reach deals ‎between parliament and the president," said Shukr.‎

A recent opinion poll among new MPs conducted by ‎parliamentary correspondents showed that many ‎favour that justice minister Ahmed El-Zend be elected ‎speaker of Egypt's new parliament. Abdel-Rehim Ali, a ‎journalist who won a seat in Giza governorate, told ‎reporters that he has high hopes that El-Zend will be ‎among El-Sisi's 28 appointees. "In this case, I will do my ‎best to rally MPs behind electing this charismatic judge ‎who has good relations with all political factions in ‎Egypt to be the coming parliamentary speaker," said Ali.‎

The previous speaker of parliament, Saad El-Katatni, ‎who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood ‎Guidance Bureau and the head of the group’s political ‎arm the Freedom and Justice Party was also an elected ‎member of parliament under ousted president Hosni ‎Mubarak from 2005 to 2010.

El-Katatni is currently in jail ‎appealing a death sentence over charges of damaging and setting fire to prison buildings, murder, attempted murder, looting prison weapons depots and releasing prisoners while escaping from the prison located outside Cairo during the January 2011 revolution. 

Law professor Ahmed Fathi Sorour, who was a leading member in Mubarak's National Democratic Party, served as the Upper House speaker since 1990 until 2011. 

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