The Egyptian parliament will elect its speaker next Sunday during the first procedural parliamentary session on 10 January.
This was confirmed by Minister of Transitional Justice and Parliament Affairs Magdy El-Agaty on Sunday in a statement to the local CBC channel.
According to the law, the parliamentary session should be administered by the most senior member of the House of Representatives. In the current parliament, MP Amna Nosseir will be the temporary parliament speaker.
“The first parliamentary session will leave the most important impact on public opinion regarding the performance of the parliament, especially regarding the competition between different candidates on the position of the parliament speaker,” the local Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) said in a statement Monday.
The statement highlights a recent study by RCSS, which aims to determine the “scenario of the first session and the election of the speaker”. It recommends the session develop over three phases: first the MPs will be sworn in, then elect the speaker and two deputies, and finally hand over the administration of the parliament to the elected leading apparatus.
According to Article 117 of the constitution, the parliamentary speaker and the two deputies shall be elected for a full legislative term. In the current situation, one parliamentary term is equal to five years.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi appointed 28 members Thursday, according to a constitutional article that entitles him to designate no more than 5% of the total number of parliamentary members. Altogether, the parliament is formed of 596 members.
The appointees include Serry Seyam, one of two figures often cited for candidacy of parliament speaker. Seyam, the former head of the Cassation Court and the Supreme Judicial Council, has a reputable career and relevant legal experience.
Meanwhile, the so-called parliamentary coalition of “Egypt Support” established by Sameh Seif El-Yazal and which claims to have a majority of members inside the parliament has presented Ali Abdul Al as its candidate for the position.
Ali Abdel Aal, a professor of Constitutional Law at Ain Shams University’s, won a seat in the parliament by running through the “For the Love of Egypt” electoral list and is currently a strong candidate for the position of parliamentary speaker.
Abdel Aal was one of ten legal figures who wrote the first draft of the 2014 constitution and was appointed by Al-Sisi to be a member of a technical committee, which drafted the political rights law and the electoral constituencies law in 2014.
On a further note, a third candidate entered the race. MP Kamal Ahmed has been a member of the parliament for years as an opposition politician. According to RCSS, Ahmed is being supported by a coalition, still in formation, led by the Egyptian Social Democratic (ESDP) within the parliament, under the name of “Social Justice Coalition”.
Three blocs seem to be competing over parliamentary leadership according to RCSS’ analysis, which has raised two questions on the matter: Will there be real competition over the position of parliament speaker? Can large political parties come to an agreement with “Egypt’s Support Coalition” or will they face what they consider the coalition’s attempt to take over parliament?
The study argued that perhaps the most influential political parties such as Al-Wafd, the Free Egyptians (FEP), and Future of a Nation (FNP) will reconsider coordination with each other to elect Seyam in the face of “Egypt’s Support Coalition”.
The study however did not tackle FNP’s actual preferences or its alliance with “Egypt’s Support”. According to FNP spokesperson Ahmed Samy, the party makes its own decision separately from the coalition.
“We believe that both Seyam and Abdel Aal match our criteria for parliament speaker, which are mainly good reputation and competence,” Samy told Daily News Egypt Monday. “However, we are currently more inclined towards Abdul Al.”
As for the two vacancies of deputy parliamentary speakers, RCSS said there might be intense competition among independent MPs because no clear announcement by any party was made with the exception of Al-Wafd Party, which has said it would not present any of its candidates.
Al-Wafd Party is supposed to hold a meeting within the next few days with its MPs to announce the party’s stance regarding the parliamentary speaker.
On Monday afternoon, FEP officially announced member Hatem Pachat to run for the position of deputy parliamentary speaker.
FEP has 65 MPs, making it the largest political party in terms of seats. However the party’s share is still insufficient to push forward decisions on its own inside parliament. According to recently elected party president Essam Khalil, FEP is yet to announce who it will support for the position of parliamentary speaker.
However, Khalil noted in a phone interview with CBC channel Sunday evening that the position “does not necessarily require a man with legal expertise. Although it would be an addition, we have seen strong parliament leaders who were not legal experts”.
Other figures that had either announced their wish to run for the position, or were suggested by political factions. Several of them are now out of the picture.
- Amr Moussa
Former presidential candidate Amr Moussa, 79, has been part of the political arena for decades. He served as minister of Foreign Affairs from 1991 to 2001 and he was chosen as Secretary-General of the Arab League from 1 June 2001 to 1 June 2011. He was elected president of the committee of 50 tasked with drafting the constitution in 2013.
Moussa, who came fifth in the 2012 presidential elections, founded the Congress Party in 2012. However, he practically left the political arena by the end of 2014, with almost no significant role since.
He has denied press statements that claimed he would be one of the appointees in the next parliament. He said the next parliament would reform political life in Egypt through its work and that it would be representative of all Egyptians.
Moussa rejected calls for reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, saying it has no grounds and that its crimes should be confronted before any talks of reconciliation.
Moussa has been strongly involved with Egypt’s foreign policy since 1958. He was Egypt’s ambassador to the United Nations, India, and Switzerland for a total of 21 years.
Moussa has been popular due to his criticism of Israeli policies towards Gaza and the West Bank.
- Tawfik Okasha
Tawfik Okasha, an Egyptian TV presenter and owner of Faraeen TV channel, has presented himself as a possible candidate for parliamentary speaker after an unexpected success in parliamentary elections, with the highest number of votes in 2015, at 70,000 votes.
Nonetheless, several politicians still ridicule his ambitions. Okasha, 48, rose to prominence in the aftermath of 25 January Revolution in 2011 and has been stirring up controversy with his political views in Egypt since. He adopted a counter-revolutionary discourse and said the revolution was a conspiracy led by the “Zionists and Freemasons to destroy Egypt”.
Well-known for his colloquial style and conspiracy theories and plots, Okasha was a former member of parliament for the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). He has previously announced running for the 2014 presidential elections before changing his mind.
Okasha often held conflicting views and switched his opinion during the events, since 2011 until the ousting of Islamist former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. He was also convicted by court for defamation.
- Adly Mansour
Several voices have called for the appointment of Egypt’s former interim president Adly Mansour, 69, to be parliamentary speaker. Besides acting as Egypt’s president from July 2013 to June 2014, he has been President of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt since May 2013.
He helped draft the presidential elections laws that saw Morsi elected in 2012. He also headed the constitutional hearings in 2012 that cancelled the law prohibiting members of the old regime from contesting in elections.
Mansour’s legal background has been a major reason behind his nomination for the position, since he made a career out of studying law.
- Ahmed Al-Zind
Sworn as Minister of Justice in May 2015, Al-Zind was unofficially recommended by several parties as a prime candidate for parliamentary speaker.
Al-Zind, 69, has been the source of much controversy over “classist” insinuations in press statements; he had said that the Justice Ministry belonged to judges and their sons, excluding others. A harsh critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Zind is believed to have strong a influence over the current state leadership.
“We will not stop appointing the sons of judges, whether people like it or not. The sons of judges will be appointed every year, and there is no power in Egypt that can stop this ‘holy march’ to the judiciary,” heal-Zind had said during a 2012 conference of the Egyptian Judges’ Club.
Al-Zind nonetheless replaced Mahfouz Saber as justice minister, after Saber resigned when the public criticised his “classist” comments since he said that sons of garbage collectors could not become judges.
He was born in Tanta and graduated in 1970 with a degree in Islamic law from Al-Azhar University. He worked for several years in the UAE before returning to Egypt.
Al-Zind was appointed as head of the Cairo Court of Appeals, a position he remained in until his appointment as head of the Judges’ Club in 2009 and then was justice minister in May 2015.
Al-Zind is known for rejecting calls to reform the judiciary after accusations of corruption within the body. He is also known for his allegiance to former president Hosni Mubarak and the Armed Forces.
Additional reporting by Nourhan El-Sebahy and Salma Abdullah.