Egypt's first parliament in three years convenes amid furore

Egypt's first parliament in more than three years held Sunday its inaugural session, which briefly slid into mayhem.

Maverick deputy Mortada Mansour caused an uproar in the 569-member assembly when he refused to stick to a text while taking the constitutional oath.

Mansour, who is also the head of Egypt’s famous Zamalek Sports Club, pledged to respect "articles of the constitution" rather than "the constitution" as the text states.

The improvisation signalled his opposition to a prelude to the constitution, which stipulates that the 2011 uprising that deposed longtime autocrat Hosny Mubarak is a revolution.

"I am fed up with January 25. I will not recognize it as a revolution," Mansour declared at the session, aired live on state television. "I'm free in what I believe."

His outburst drew an objection from several lawmakers, prompting head of the procedural session, Bahaa Abu Shuqa, to threaten to suspend the session over the altercation.

After persuasion from some lawmakers, Mansour agreed to stick to the oath-taking text in his repeated swearing-in.

Mansour is a loyalist of Mubarak and the incumbent President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, who took office in 2014.

Mubarak's opponents accuse al-Sissi of reviving the regime of the former dictator, an accusation denied by the ex-army chief.

The legislature, heavily dominated by al-Sissi's backers, Sunday elected lawmaker Ali Abdel-Al as its speaker for a five-year term.

Abdel-Al, a law professor, won 401 out of the valid 580 votes cast at the session, Abu Shuqa announced. 

Six other deputies competed for the post.

Abdel-Al is a member of the For Love of Egypt, a pro-Sissi alliance.

In a show of patriotism, some deputies held the national flag while taking the oath.

A deputy from the Salafist Nur party, the only Islamist force in parliament, read the oath-taking text while holding a copy of the Koran.

The last parliament, elected after the anti-Mubarak uprising and was dominated by Islamists, was dissolved in mid-2012 after a court ruling voided the elections.

That led to a constitutional crisis which inflamed tensions between the Muslim Brotherhood, led by the country's first elected president Mohammed Morsi, and the secular opposition.

The struggle culminated in mass demonstrations against Morsi. Al-Sissi, who was then the defence minister, stepped in to oust the Islamist leader.

The Muslim Brotherhood was later outlawed and listed as a terrorist organization.

The majority of members of the new parliament are independents, most of them avowed supporters of al-Sissi.

The largest single party, the centre-right Free Egyptians Party founded by Christian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, holds 65 seats.

The parliamentary election, held late last year, was the third and last step in a military-backed transition plan announced after Morsi's overthrow. 

The first two steps were the ratification of a new constitution and the presidential election won by al-Sissi.

The leader of the only opposition party to win seats in the new legislature, Mohammed Abu al-Ghar of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, on Saturday charged that the elections had been "engineered."

The country's powerful security services had exerted pressure in the selection of candidates, Abu al-Ghar charged in an interview with the private El Watan newspaper.

Last update: Mon, 11/01/2016 - 00:24
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