Egypt's Senate shapes up

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 21 Oct 2020

After electing a speaker and two deputies the new Senate will begin drafting its internal bylaws

The Senate shapes up
photo: Khaled Mashaal

Senators elected in August and September began work on Sunday by holding a procedural meeting

The 300 members of Egypt’s new second chamber chose Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Razek, a former head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, as speaker, and as his two deputies selected the leader of the Wafd Party, Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, and media expert and member of the Republican People’s Party Phoebe Girgis Fawzi.

Abdel-Razek, 73, won unopposed and will serve for five years. Abdel-Razek, who is also chairman of the Senate majority Mostaqbal Watan Party, won 287 out of a possible total of 300 votes.

Abdel-Razek entered politics in March 2019 when he became chair of Mostaqbal Watan. At the time the party issued a statement describing him as a man with an unimpeachable legislative and constitutional record. “The fact he is the elected chairman of Mostaqbal Watan will give the party a lot of prestige,” said the statement.

Introducing himself to the Senate, Abdel-Razek said “it is a great honour for me to run for the post of speaker of the Senate.

“My name is Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Razek. I was a former head of the Supreme Constitutional Court and I have spent my career working in every branch of the judicial system.”

After winning the post, Abdel-Razek announced that “the formation of the Senate means that Egypt’s political structure is now complete.

“Right now, we are back to a bicameral system and this is a very good step. It is a great honour for me to conclude my public, judicial and parliamentary life with winning the confidence of new senators.”

Abdel-Razek said his election as speaker comes at a time when President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is rebuilding Egypt after it was about to collapse.

“God protected Egypt and helped a nationalist hero take reins of the nation, remove the one who tried to wreck the ship, and who is now heroically navigating a course in a sea full of cowardly pirates who are trying their best to destroy this nation.”

Abdel-Razek was head of the Supreme Constitutional Court between 2016 to 2018. As a member of the court’s panel of commissioner she voted in favour of dissolving the 2012 parliament, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, and issued rulings invalidating the amendment of the exercise of the political rights law which had been approved by the Brotherhood-dominated parliament to disenfranchise officials of former president Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

 Abdel-Razek was also a member of the Presidential Election Committee which supervised the 2014 presidential election, won by President Al-Sisi.

Abdel-Razek decided that the Senate’s next meeting be held on 29 November. Until then, he said, a committee will be formed and tasked with drafting the Senate’s internal bylaws “in order for our chamber to be able to exercise its duties and responsibilities”.

Abu Shoka, leader of the liberal Wafd Party and the Senate’s first deputy speaker, said he had resigned from his previous post as chairman of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

“It is a great honour for me to be appointed to the Senate by President Al-Sisi. As you know I have a long record as a judge, lawyer and politician.”

Abu Shoka won 255 votes, and immediately announced that he would donate his salary from the Senate to the Long Live Egypt Fund set up by President Al-Sisi.

Phoebe Fawzi, the head of the News Department at the National Media Organisation, said it was an honour as a woman and a Coptic Egyptian to be elected the Senate’s second deputy speaker. Fawzi, who is also an English-Arabic translator, won 199 votes.

The Senate’s procedural meeting on Sunday came after President Al-Sisi issued a decree on 14 October appointing 100 public figures in the Senate to join the 200 elected representatives.

The list of appointees included Hoda Gamal Abdel-Nasser, daughter of late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser; political analyst and former chairman of Al-Ahram Abdel-Moneim Said; Galal Haridi, chairman of the Guardians of the Nation Party; Yehia Al-Fakharani, actor; Sameh Ashour, the former chairman of the Lawyers Syndicate; and Maher Abu Ghali, a high-profile businessman.

The pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party has a majority in the chamber with 149 seats. Independents occupy 85, the People’s Republican Party 17, the Wafd 11, the Guardians of the Nation 11, the Tagammu four, Modern Egypt four, and the Congress four.

Three political parties — the Egyptian Socialist Democratic, the Reform and Development and the National Movement — got three seats. The Salafist Nour won two.

Six political parties — the Egyptian Freedom, Justice, the Republican, the Will of the Nation and Democratic Sadat, and Reform and Renaissance — have one seat each.

There are 40 female senators, 20 by election and 20 by appointment, six representatives of professional syndicates and trade unions, two judges, two actors, nine media workers, 16 public figures, and 12 chairmen of political parties.

The chamber’s job is purely advisory, proposing measures that reinforce democracy, social peace, and human rights and freedoms. The Senate must be consulted on amendments to the constitution, the state’s five-year development plans, alliance and peace treaties and laws which form an integral part of the constitution.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


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