Lower House of Parliament Holds First Session
January 23, 2012
Egypt's newly-elected lower house of
parliament has held its first meeting since a popular uprising ousted
autocratic president Hosni Mubarak a year ago, with Islamist lawmakers
dominating the assembly.
The chamber's oldest member, Mahmoud el-Saqqah, chaired Monday's
inaugural session, which began with a moment of silence for the hundreds
of people killed in anti-government protests over the past year.
Egyptian lawmakers then took turns reading an oath of office pledging to
respect the constitution and the law.
Several members tried to modify the wording, with one Islamist member
vowing allegiance to God's law and several liberals pledging to continue
the reformist-led anti-Mubarak revolution. The improvised changes
angered Saqqah, a liberal, who ordered the offending lawmakers to repeat
the original oath.
The Islamist Freedom and Justice Party of Egypt's once-banned Muslim
Brotherhood movement won almost half of the assembly's 498 elected seats
in several rounds of voting that began in November and ended earlier
Its nominee for speaker, Saad Katatni, was elected to the post Monday.
Another Islamist group, the ultraconservative Al-Nur Party, came in
second in the elections, winning about one-quarter of the seats.
factions finished a distant third and fourth. Ten members of the
assembly were appointed by the military council that has led Egypt since
Mubarak resigned in February. Phased elections for parliament's less
powerful upper house, the Shura Council, are set to begin later this
The main task of the two chambers will be to choose a 100-member panel
to draft a new constitution that Egypt's military rulers have promised
to put to a referendum. The military council also has pledged to hold a
presidential election by June and hand over power to the winner.
The Muslim Brotherhood was officially banned during Mubarak's
three-decade autocratic rule.
But Brotherhood activists competed in Mubarak-era elections as
independents and built a popular network of social services for the
poor, helping the movement to become Egypt's best organized political
force. It had been widely expected to dominate the first free elections
of the post-revolution period.