Egypt’s Islamist-led parliament meets amid rivalries, God issue at swearing in

January 23, 2012

(Salafi members of parliament are seen during the first Egyptian parliament session, after a revolution ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo January 23, 2012. Egypt's parliament opened on Monday for the first time since a historic free election put Islamists in the driving seat after years of repression under Mubarak. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)

Egypt’s first free parliament in six decades got to work on Monday with Islamists holding by far the most seats and opponents comparing their grip on the chamber to that enjoyed by the now defunct party of deposed President Hosni Mubarak. With almost half the seats in the assembly, the Muslim Brotherhood is promising to cooperate with the military generals, who took power last February when Mubarak was overthrown, in their transition to civilian rule.

Thousands of pro-democracy activists who fear a deal between the Islamists and the generals to carve up power cried “down with the military government” behind a police cordon near the parliament building. A credible chamber would help Egypt’s new political class prove it can govern and the Brotherhood has said it wants to be inclusive and ensure all voices in Egypt are heard.

The session began in sombre mood as parliament’s acting speaker, automatically chosen as its oldest member, invited deputies to hold a silent prayer in memory of the hundreds who died in the uprising that ousted Mubarak in February last year. “The blood of the martyrs is what brought this day,” said speaker, Mahmoud al-Saqa, 81. Some deputies wore yellow sashes in protest at the army’s policy to try thousands of civilians in military courts.

The session became more raucous when one Islamist member, Mamdouh Ismail, read the oath that vows allegiance to the nation and its laws but added his own words “so long as it does not oppose God’s law”, prompting the speaker to tell him to repeat it without his addition.

Read the full story by Marwa Awad and Shaimaa Fayed here.
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