Egypt lawmakers call for balance of power
Parties wary of muslim brotherhood’s powerful presence in the new parliament
By Habiba Abdel Aziz, Community Journalist
Published: 23:29 January 22, 2012
gulfnews : Egypt lawmakers call for balance of power
Dubai: On January 23, the Egyptian parliament, having gone through three electoral phases, will meet for its first session earlier than planned at the behest of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, just two days before the anniversary of the popular uprising.
The mechanics of the upcoming parliament cannot on it’s own predict Egypt’s future during those six months. Gulf News spoke with members of the Egyptian Parliament, representing different parties, who addressed the key points surrounding the process and the people behind it.
Esaam Sultan, vice chairman of the Al Wasat Party and parliament member, believes that the parliament can accomplish a great deal in six months with regard to avenging those who were injured and honouring the dead. Next on their list of priorities is meeting the demands of the revolution and writing a constitution that unites all political parties.
The Al Wasat Party, according to Sultan, believes a balance must exist between the parliament and Egypt’s future president, so that neither camps can overpower the other.
On the other hand, Dr Mohammed Al Beltagy, secretary-general of the Freedom and Justice Party, said that this upcoming phase is all about transition: “I’m hoping we transition into the post-revolution phase with ease, where the parliament has both judicial and legislative power.”
Imaad Gad, a political analyst with Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, was in disagreement: “It is going to depend on the procedural session, where the jobs and positions are distributed fairly.”
Amin Eskander, founding member of Al Karama Party, agreed with his fellow Parliament member on this point.
According to Hosni Hafez, the media spokesperson of Al Wafed Party, if all parties consider Egypt as their “number one priority”, they shouldn’t disagree on the best way to proceed with a much-needed peaceful transition.
When asked about the presidential hopeful the party will consider backing, Sultan, and Al Beltagy said all candidates stood a good chance to win at this point.
For Gad, Amr Mousa, former Secretary-General of the Arab League, had the best shot, unless former minister of information Mansour Hassan decided to nominate himself.
Al Wafed Party, represented by Hafez, is yet to announce its candidate, while Eskandar believes that Hamdeen Sabahi, currently the leader of the Dignity Party, should become president given his long history of fighting governmental corruption and oppression, as well as the projects he founded to help elevate the living standards of the poor.
Like all other political parties and activists on the scene, Al Wasat Party had it’s own outlook on the role the Muslim Brotherhood played throughout the past year.
Sultan told Gulf News: “The Muslim Brotherhood played an effective role, but they also had their failings. On the one hand their participation in the revolution is one of the reasons why the protesters were able to topple the regime. On the other hand, the elections witnessed violations on their part, and some of their statements were misplaced. I recall one of their speakers suggesting the families of the killed should receive money and drop the case they filed against Hosni Mubarak and Habib Al Adly.”
Al Beltagy said: “The stands the Muslim Brotherhood made throughout the past year were decided on good faith. Yes we made mistakes, but it’s bound to change once we’ve realised that some of the decisions we made were not well thought through. Organisations are bound to make mistakes, and hold themselves accountable for them.”
Gad had a different take on the matter: “The Muslim Brotherhood were not with the revolution until January 28, but then they sat down with Omar Sulaiman before the ousting of Mubarak and then with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) post the revolution and secretly came to agreements that best suited them.”
Eskandar agreed with Gad. He said: “I was hoping the majority elected showed more maturity and responsibility. This parliament was supposed to represent the revolution and reflect the new Egypt the people were hoping for. The Muslim Brotherhood did leave the people of Tahrir at a critical hour, the organisation not being present in the streets weakened the revolution.”
“This parliament, which people took to calling the ‘revolution’s parliament’, has only six female representatives and six Christian members - both are a part of this country as much as everyone else, both took part and came out in droves to support the revolution, both bled for this country and yet neither are properly represented in the parliament.”
Sultan addressed the issue of a dominant Islamist presence in the parliament and it’s affect on people’s daily lives.
He said: “No one can silence the voice and the demands of the people, and no one can control the parliament regardless of them being a majority. As for their dealings with SCAF there are no secrets and this point, we can’t really say how the Freedom and Justice Party as well as Al Nour party will handle SCAF.”
Al Beltagy believes that to speak of Egypt’s future is to speak of the Freedom and Justice Party’s plans to accomplish just that - a free and democratic country.
He said: “We’re speaking of democratic Egypt that wishes to grant it’s people freedom, justice, and security. A country where citizens freely speak their mind. It’s a decades-long dream, and now that we’re in a place that guarantees that we accomplish that, that’s exactly what we’re aiming to accomplish.”
Gad was not as optimistic. He said: “It depends on the constitution, and the fact is, personal freedom is protected by the law. What the people feared was how far Al Nour party is willing to go, but given that their union with the Freedom and Justice Party failed, and the fact is that the Freedom and Justice party is seeking union with other liberal parties, I’d say that, that concern is unfounded.”
Hafez has personally met with the youth of Al Nour and the Freedom and Justice Party and said that they left a positive impression.
He said: “I haven’t sensed any selfishness in the youth belonging to either party. Both parties wish to accomplish something great for the country.”
Eskander warned that the Muslim Brotherhood has to tread carefully. He said: “Given the fact that they pulled out from the streets and focused on the elections, this is not a bad thing. The problem is that in countless instances, they completely disregarded the common man for what they believed is best, and if they continue to do so, they will create a gap of communication that is not easily crossed
A few days from now, the people will again take to the streets and while some will support the SCAF, others will stand against it. The candidates stated their opinions on the matter.
According to Al Beltagy, the Muslim Brotherhood’s ties with SCAF ends with the presidential elections.
He said: “With a president in office, they will have to hand over power completely and leave the Egyptian political scene for it’s people. My main concern is the people - they’re the ones to decide what happens, the will of the people toppled over three governments in one year. No one expected the people to be able to force their way through. I believe in our people and their ability to carve out this country’s future at all costs.”
Hafez agreed: “If SCAF handed over power to the parliament now, how will we secure the country until the presidential elections? We have a deadline, and if all parties maintain it, we will cross this transitional period as smoothly as we can.”
Agreement on roles and duties
During the first session, the parliament is expected to come to an agreement with regard to the roles and duties certain members are expected to perform, and a parliament head will be elected along with his two deputies.
Next, the parliament is to put together the constituent assembly, whose sole purpose is write the new constitution. The assembly will be made out of a 100 members from all walks of life, with some belonging to political parties and others to unions.
Last but not least, the parliament will have to set down the rules and guidelines that will govern the upcoming presidential elections, starting with the qualifications of the presidential hopefuls and ending with the means by which the people will elect their candidate.
Once the rules are in place, the presidential nominations will be officially announced on April 15. The elections will take place on June 10 and a president will be announced on June 27.