The House of Representatives reconvened after a short fall recess on Tuesday, writes Gamal Essam El-Din. Secretary-General Mahmoud Fawzi said parliament has held five legislative terms since January 2016.
Tuesday was the final day in the parliament’s five-year cycle and before the newly-elected session begins its proceedings after 9 January 2021, Fawzi said.
Most of the discussion on Tuesday focused on a number of reports prepared by the House’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee on a number of foreign agreements and deals.
Topping the list was a report on the Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Cooperation Agreement between Egypt and Russia. The 10-year deal, signed in Sochi on 17 October 2018, aims to reinforce cooperation between Egypt and Russia in economic, investment, political, and military areas.
The agreement, endorsed by the parliaments of the two countries, states that the two countries will conduct a strategic dialogue on military cooperation and that senior officials in the two countries will exchange visits on a regular basis to discuss mutual interests.
The discussion also included another report on the charter of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum established in Cairo on 22 September 2020. The charter, ratified by Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, aims to reinforce cooperation between a number of Eastern Mediterranean countries in the field of natural gas exploration.
An explanatory note said the charter seeks to create a dialogue among members of the forum on natural gas policies and how to preserve resources in this respect. Members of the forum include Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said during a debate on Monday that the fact that the forum is located in Cairo is a big win for Egypt. “It is the first forum of its kind in the Arab world and the Middle East and this means a lot of prestige for Egypt which will be the region’s natural gas hub in the next few years,” said Abdel-Aal.
The discussion also included a $113 million assistance grant agreement between Egypt and the United States on “Economic Governance for Development Projects”. The agreement is aimed at improving the performance of economic courts in terms of reinforcing transparency, empowering women, and supporting marginalised communities.
MPs also discussed a syndicated loan agreement between the National Tunnels Authority and JP Morgan Limited Europe and the London-based JP Morgan Chase NA. The agreement, signed on 13 August 2020, states that the two JP Morgan banks will provide a loan of 1.9 billion euros to the National Tunnels Authority to help fund the construction of the two lines of the monorail trains in the New Administrative Capital and 6 October city.
A report released by parliament’s secretariat-general on Monday showed that parliament passed 891 laws, including 10,556 articles, since 2016. In supervisory terms, it discussed 6,008 information requests, 1,278 urgent statements, 4,133 questions, and 3,188 proposals. “This shows that MPs have fully and freely exercised their supervisory powers,” a report said, adding that “parliament also discussed one interpellation that was directed to the minister of health.”
The House meeting on Tuesday was held after parliamentary elections came to an end on 8 December. The National Election Authority (NEA) announced on Monday the final results of the last stage of run-offs for the second phase of the country’s new parliament elections which were held earlier this month.
According to an official statement released by the NEA, 100 new MPs were elected during the round, 53 of whom belong to the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party (The Future of Homeland).
A total of 202 candidates vied for the 100 seats in Cairo, Qalioubiya, Daqahliya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai, and South Sinai.
Forty-two individual seats were secured during the first round of the parliament election’s second stage, alongside the 142 seats reserved for the party list system, which were easily won by the electoral list led by Mostaqbal Watan, dubbed the National Coalition.
The 568-seat assembly was filled via the individual candidacy system and the closed party list system equally, as per the recent amendments to the elections law.
According to the NEA, the National List coalition led by Mostaqbal Watan secured the 284 seats reserved for party lists in the two-stage poll.
However, only one seat, in Dayr Mawas constituency in Upper Egypt’s Minya governorate, is still up for grabs after the NEA suspended its elections upon a ruling issued by the Supreme Administrative Court after an excluded candidate returned to the competition. The date of this seat’s election has not yet been determined.
Also, a by-election is expected to be held soon to fill a vacant constituency in Daqahliya governorate, whose deputy passed away in late November shortly after he was announced the winner during the first round of second stage elections.
Political analysts expect that the new parliament will not be much different from the outgoing one. “Unlike the outgoing one, there will be a majority party — that is the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party, and so I expect that laws, particularly which require the approval of a majority 50 per cent of MPs will be passed very easily in the new parliament,” said Yasser Al-Hodeibi, deputy chairman of the Wafd Party.
Official statistics show that Mostaqbal Watan Party won 314 seats, or around 52 per cent of seats, from just 57 (eight per cent) in the outgoing 596-seat chamber.
Al-Hodeibi told the media that there is no question that the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan will be the dominant force in the coming parliament. “This will make cooperation between the government and the new parliament very effective and fruitful,” Al-Hodeibi said.
Mostaqbal Watan also has the majority in the 300-seat Senate, or the second chamber, securing around 170 seats (60 per cent). “Don’t also forget that there will be harmony between the House of Representatives and the Senate as Mostaqbal Watan is the dominant force in the two chambers,” said Al-Hodeibi, explaining that “discussion of laws in the two chambers will not see any significant difference and this will lead to legislative stability.”
Abdel-Moneim Said, a political analyst and a senator, believes that the new chambers — the House and the Senate — will include a record number of women (at least 125 in the House and 30 in the Senate). “Not to mention that there will be a reasonable number of representatives of Copts and young people in the two chambers,” said Said. He also indicated that 12 political parties were able to have seats in parliament. “This came from an alliance with Mostaqbal Watan. Without this alliance it would have been difficult for these forces to find their way to parliament,” Said said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 December, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.