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Egyptian Parliament Convenes Amid Protests

Posted on the 24 January 2012 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman
Egypt's lower house of Parliament, the People's Assembly, convened yesterday, Monday the 23rd of January. It's opening was contentious, as protesters rallied to demand an end to military trials, a handover of power to civilians, and retribution for martyrs.
Doctors marched from the Doctors Syndicate on Qasr al Aini Street. Meanwhile artists and intellectuals held a march from the Cairo Opera House. The so-called "Creativity Front" demanded protection for freedom of creativity.
As many as 2000 protesters lined the street leading to Parliament, which was protected by iron gates, riot police the Central Security Forces, who were in turn protected--somewhat oddly in my view--by hundreds of Salafis and MB members.
Noha El-Hennawy comments that it is not clear how powerful the parliament is in relation to the ruling military council. The MB Democratic Alliance holds 235 seats (47%), the Salafis 135, the moderate Wafd 38 and the Egyptian Bloc 35. There are 498 seats. A variety of independents, including NDP remnants, hold the remaining seats.
Supreme Constitutional Court Vice President Tahani al-Gebali states that the military council still holds the right to ratify or veto bills. This right comes from the temporary constitution in place which was partly written by military decree last spring.
Despite its drawbacks, the Egypt Independent observes that this is the "first fairly elected legislative body in nearly six decades." (Noha El Hennawy, "Egypt's New People's Assembly Swears in Today, but Powers Are Dubious," Al Masry Al Youm, January 24, 2012)
Egypt's Parliament voted Mohamed Saad al Katatny of the Freedom and Justice Party as People's Assembly speaker during its first session. Katatny received 399 votes. Before donning the mantle as speaker, Katatny served as secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Freedom and Justice party. In his first speech, he stated tat "We want to build a new Egypt: a constitutional, democratic and modern Egypt." (Staff "Egypt's New Parliament elects FJP figure as speaker," Egypt Independent, January 24, 2012.)
Elections for the Shura council will begin later this month and end in February. The two chambers are slated to choose a 100 member panel to draft a new constitution, although at this point, anything could happen.

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