Egypt convenes parliament for first time in 3 years

Special to

Egypt’s parliament, comprised primarily with supporters of President Abdul Fatah Sisi, convened on Jan. 10 for the first time in three years amidst severe security challenges to the nation, especially in the Sinai peninsula.

Members of Egypt's Parliament attend the inaugural session, the first to convene in three years, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 10. /AP/Said Shahat
Members of Egypt’s Parliament attend the inaugural session in Cairo on Jan. 10. /AP

The inaugural 2016 session was the first for the 596-seat parliament since Sisi overthrew Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

The new parliament replaces the Islamist-dominated chamber that was dissolved by a June 2012 court ruling.

Constitutional expert Ali Abdelaal, a French-educated lawyer who helped draft the constitution and election law, was elected speaker of parliament backed by an alliance of over 400 MPs loyal to Sisi. As speaker, Abdelaal is first in the line of succession to the presidency.

“I know the constitution by heart. I wrote this constitution, nobody holds it up to me,” Abdelaal responded to a lawmaker who spoke out of turn to insist parliament was required to elect deputy speakers in its first session after Abdelaal moved to adjourn it.

The newly-elected parliament has its work cut out for it as it must ratify 300 presidential decrees issued by Sisi since he took office in June 2014.

Under Egypt’s constitution, the decrees must be ratified within 15 days starting from the date of the inaugural session. Failure to ratify the decrees will result in automatic repeal.

Among Sisi’s decrees are a law severely restricting street demonstrations and an anti-terror measure whie gives police vast powers.