Islamists will dominate Egypt’s first parliament following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak almost a year ago as the country prepares for the anniversary of the protests that ended his three-decade rule.
The alliance led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won 235 of the 498 elected seats, or 47 percent, in the lower house, party spokesman Ahmed Sobea said yesterday by phone. The party nominated its secretary-general, Mohamed Saad El-Katatni, as the speaker of parliament.
While the assembly, due to hold its first session tomorrow, is supposed to select a committee that will write a new constitution, its exact powers remain unclear. Seven weeks of elections have failed to allay tensions between the activists who ousted Mubarak and the military council that took power from him. Protesters are calling for mass rallies on Jan. 25, the anniversary of the start of the uprising against Mubarak, to demand the generals transfer power to civilians.
“Political and economic reforms are the main challenges facing us,” Sobhi Saleh, who won a parliamentary seat for the Freedom and Justice Party, said in a telephone interview. “We’re moving from a phase of a revolution to having a state. Building a state is a difficult challenge.”
The head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, assigned 10 non-elected members to the parliament, Al Jazeera television reported.
The military council will release 1,959 prisoners convicted by military courts after the Jan. 25 uprising, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported yesterday, citing the head of the military judicial committee, Major General Adel el-Mursi. Among those to be freed are Maikel Nabil, an internet blogger, Mena said.
Putting an end to the trial of civilians in military courts is a main demand of protesters.
Of the 332 members of parliament elected from party lists, Freedom and Justice won 127, Elections Commission head Abdel Moez Ibrahim told reporters yesterday in Cairo. The more conservative Salafi Muslim bloc led by the Nour party took 96 seats, while two secular groups placed third and fourth, with the Wafd party obtaining 36 seats and the Egyptian Bloc getting 33 seats, he said.
While it is premature to discuss alliances in parliament, Saleh said, “we are open to everyone and are ready to deal with everyone.”
The military council said it would cede power when a president is elected in a national vote by the end of June. In comments published by Mena on Jan. 17, Tantawi said Egypt is facing “grave and unprecedented dangers” and urged Egyptians to be vigilant to thwart “plots and conspiracies” being woven for their country.
“The military is still the most anti-democratic force in Egyptian politics, and the challenge for the Brotherhood and the other parties in parliament is how best to manage the military,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said by phone yesterday. “The goal now is to ease them out of power. Everyone agrees on that goal, but there’s divergence on how best to do that.”
The unrest of the past year has curbed tourist arrivals and foreign investment and lowered economic growth to 1.8 percent in the fiscal year through June, the slowest pace in at least a decade. Tourist arrivals fell 33 percent last year, while international reserves are at the lowest level since March 2005.
Egypt formally requested a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund on Jan. 16 to help it support the economy.
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