The political landscape in Egypt's parliament is seeing a dramatic shift this week, as a large number of independent and party-based MPs join the Future of Homeland party, swelling its ranks in parliament.
Party head Ashraf Rashad announced at a press conference on Thursday that around 150 independent MPs who are members of the "For the Sake of Egypt" association have decided to join the party.
Rashad said the association, which was formed late last year to mobilise mass support for the re-election of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi in Egypt's 2018 presidential election, also decided to merge with the Future of Homeland party.
Rashad also said that 50 MPs affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party have resigned in order to join Future of Homeland's ranks.
"Some of these are high-profile figures such as Alaa Abed, the former parliamentary spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party and the current head of parliament's human rights committee, and Abdel-Hadi El-Qasabi, head of parliament's social solidarity committee," said Rashad.
Rashad also revealed that Hossam El-Kholi, the former deputy head of the Wafd party, was named the secretary-general of the Future of Homeland party. El-Kholi announced last week that he had decided to resign from Wafd.
Alaa Abed told reporters that the merging of For the Sake of Egypt with Future of Homeland will change the political landscape of the country. He also said that as many as 50 MPs affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party have decided to switch alliances.
"They have decided to join the Future of Homeland party to make it the leading political party in Egypt," said Abed.
Abed and El-Khouli said they broke ranks with the Free Egyptians Party and the Wafd party to transfer their expertise to Future of Homeland.
"We want Future of Homeland to be Egypt's leading and majority party," said El-Khouli.
Rashad said the party's success in swelling its ranks to become the leading political force in Egypt came after President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi urged political parties with similar platforms to merge into stronger entities.
"We strongly believe in President El-Sisi's initiative and so we have moved quickly to convince more than 150 independent MPs to join our ranks," said Rashad.
The Future of Homeland party, founded in 2015, won 57 seats in Egypt's parliament in the last election.
Atef Nasser, the parliamentary spokesman of Future of Homeland, told reporters today that MPs affiliated with the party grew from 57 last week to around 250, or around 40 percent.
"We got 150 independent MPs, and a number ranging between 40 and 50 MPs who were members of the Free Egyptians Party and the Wafd party," said Nasser.
Future of Homeland's successful political moves have come as a big surprise to the majority ”Support Egypt" parliamentary coalition, which announced a month ago that it was planning to turn itself into a licenced political party.
"I agree that the decision of 150 independent MPs to join our party came as a big surprise to the leaders of Support Egypt," said Nasser, also noting that "the support for Future of Homeland's moves came after many MPs complained of the poor performance of the Support Egypt coalition's leadership and its failure to impose discipline in parliament."
Some legislative experts, however, questioned the legality of the decision by independent and party-based MPs to join Future of Homeland’s ranks.
"As we all know," said Abdel-Moneim El-Oleimi, an independent MP and a long-term member of parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee, "when MPs switch political or partisan alliances they automatically face the threat of losing their parliamentary membership."
According to El-Oliemi, "Article 6 of the House of Representatives law states that elected MPs cannot change their political designation once elected."
"Independent MPs would lose their parliamentary membership if they decided to join a political party following their election, and the same would be true if an MP elected on a party ticket suddenly became an independent," said El-Oleimi, adding that "Article 110 of Egypt's 2014 constitution also states that ‘an elected MP will be stripped of parliamentary membership if he/she loses trust and esteem or if he/she ceases to meet any of the membership conditions based on which he/she was elected."