The Egyptian parliament opened for its first session in four years on Sunday, and it immediately got a tad messy. The session began with the standard swearing in of members of parliament, and a speaker was elected through secret ballot.
Ali Abdel Aal was elected speaker of the house with 401 out of 585 votes. Abdel Aal is a constitutional law professor at Ain Shams University and is the nominee from the Alliance to Support Egypt coalition, a branch of the state-sponsored For the Love of Egypt coalition that dominated much of the 2015 parliamentary elections. He was on the committee of 10 legal experts who were given a mandate to amend Egypt’s constitution in 2014, as well as the 50-person committee that produced a final revision of the document. He also sat on the committee that drafted the political rights law, as well as the electoral law.
All went well with the swearing in of members of parliament until Mortada Mansour came to the podium.
Mansour, the controversial Zamalek Football Club head known for his fiery comments to the press and stand-offs with politicians and media figures, caused a stir when he changed the words of his parliamentary oath so he would not have to acknowledge the January 25 revolution. Other MPs got it wrong due to mere pronunciation problems.
The oath reads, “I swear by God to loyally uphold the republican system of Egypt, respect the constitution and law, uphold the people’s interests and safeguard national independence, integrity and unity of the nation.”
Mansour said he would respect “articles of the constitution” rather than the constitution as a whole because its preamble acknowledges both the January 25 and June 30 “revolutions.” In an interview before arriving at parliament, Mansour had made the startling announcement that the wording is false because the protests on January 25 were not a revolution but an uprising.
Bahaa Eddin Abu Shoqa, who as the oldest member of parliament was appointed interim parliamentary speaker, was in no mood for Mansour’s quibbles. He pointed out that choosing which words you want to use for your parliamentary oath is illegal.
Mansour initially stood his ground, swearing that he would get divorced before acknowledging the January 25 revolution in his oath. Shoqa visibly rolled his eyes as he reminded Mansour that if he wanted to be a member of parliament he did not really have a choice. In the end Mansour was reluctantly shepherded to the podium by two fellow MPs — filmmaker Khaled Youssef and journalist Mostafa Bakry.
Mansour rushed through his recitation of the correct oath, glaring until the end. The incident was widely mocked on social media, with many posting that Mansour should get divorced because he had swore on his marriage that he would not acknowledge the January 25 revolution.
The procedural session moved on to the election of a parliamentary speaker to replace Shoqa — fortunately for his health, he only has to deal with one session before bowing out. The parliamentary speaker is chosen through a secret ballot cast by all MPs and organized by a committee.
Those who came forward with their nomination requests for the position during the session were: Constitutional law expert Ali Abd Aal, 70-year-old veteran Alexandrian parliamentarian Kamel Ahmed Mohamed, former Social Solidarity Minister Ali Moselhy, media figure Tawfik Okasha, 32-year-old lawyer Khaled Abou Taleb, ًWafd Party politician Eid Heikal and lawyer Mohamed Mahmoud al-Otmany.
Abd Aal is the nominee from the Support Egypt coalition, the child of the state-supported For the Love of Egypt coalition that dominated much of the parliamentary elections. It is widely expected that he will win the vote for speaker, to the point that one parliamentary member joked that MPs shouldn’t even bother voting.
Each of the seven candidates had a few minutes to say why they should be elected. Many gave exhaustive resumes of all of their previous positions stretching back to the 1990s, while finishing with thundering declarations of their belief in the Egyptian people and the June 30 revolution.
Okasha, the controversial host of Al-Faraeen channel, led his speech with the overarching declaration that Egyptians are the best people in the world.
Mohamed used his decades-long experience as parliamentarian to mention his track record in contesting different governments.
Unlike the others, Otmany stated that he participated in both the January 25 and June 30 revolutions, which he called a “corrective action,” and that without them the parliament would not exist today. His words may have been a sideways rebuttal to Mansour.
In a message about the new legislators on the first day of their convention, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi congratulated Egyptians for electing a new parliament, saying that the scene “reflects the level of achievement that Egypt has reached through the will of its people, who came together for the interest of the country.”