Islamists in spotlight in Egypt’s new Parliament

Islamists in spotlight in Egypt’s new Parliament

Islamists in spotlight in Egypt’s new Parliament

Lawmakers in Cairo remember the victims who died during the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in the first Egyptian Parliament session since the revolution.

The Parliament elected in Egypt’s first vote after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster nearly a year ago held its inaugural session yesterday, with Islamists dominating the 498-seat chamber. Islamist MPs took center stage during the session while their supporters cheered the event outside.

The most colorful moments of the gathering was the dispute over versions of the oath. The session was opened by Mahmoud al-Saqa, 81, a member of the liberal Wafd party who was given the parliamentary speaker duties. The session began with a moment of silence for those killed in the uprising.

One of the Parliament’s first tasks is to pick a new speaker, expected to be Mohamed Saad al-Katatni, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, which won the largest number of seats in the election.

In the packed and sometimes chaotic first session, the deputies were sworn in one by one, pledging to “preserve the safety of the nation and the interests of people and to respect the constitution and the law.”

In a sign of the Islamists’ increasing assertiveness, one ultra-conservative Islamist MP insisted on adding a religious reference to the oath. When lawyer Mamduh Ismail took the microphone vowing to also “abide by the law of God,” he was sharply rebuked by the chair. “Please stick to the text,” al-Saqa urged Ismail, asking him to repeat the oath several times. “Mr. Ismail, my friend, please stand up and read the oath, and stick to the text.” Others tried to add “to protect the goals of the revolution” to the oath and received a similar rebuke during the session which saw several deputies don yellow sashes calling for “an end to military trials of civilians.” The long-banned Muslim Brotherhood won a crushing victory with 47.18 percent through the Freedom and Justice Party. The ultra-conservative Salafist Al-Nour party came second with 24.29 percent, with the liberal Wafd party finishing a distant third.

Elections for Parliament’s upper house, the Shura Council, are to begin later this month and end in February.