Although Ali Abdel Aal was arguably the expected winner of the post of parliamentary speaker, his election into the post took quite a bit of the newly convened parliament’s energy on its first day in session on January 10.
Bahaa Abu Shaka, in charge of the first session of parliament, announced the start of the vote for the position, for which seven candidates had nominated themselves. Five hundred and ninety-six members of parliament would be called one by one, and asked to head to the voting committee in the center of the hall and cast their ballot.
As the process was kicking off, with the first 30 MPs casting their ballots, some objected and called for a more “transparent” voting process.
This prompted Shaka to call for a do-over, to guarantee transparency, this time asking MPs to vote behind a small room divider.
Shaka said the ballot boxes needed to be emptied and the process restarted.
“But why doubt people’s intentions?” one MP asked, adding that some of those who voted had already left.
“It’s okay,” he was told, “it will only take us an extra 30 minutes.”
When another MP objected, he was alerted to the fact that the people took three months to elect them to parliament, in which case, “It’s okay if you spend a few more hours.”
Other logistical preparations that stalled the process included bringing a table on which voters could rest their ballots as they voted, as well as other stationary items, such as a large envelope and scotch tape.
Another MP yelled, “Just appoint the speaker and get it over with!”
He continued, “Or just get a table, man!”
While Haitham Aboul Ezz al-Hariri, an independent MP, doesn’t believe the process was bureaucratic, he thinks it could have been better managed. Hariri says that the process was slow and that there should have been more than one committee to receive all 600 votes.
“However, it was the first experience and it just took too long that’s all,” he says.
In November, when the election process was in full swing, Parlmany, a website dedicated to parliamentary news coverage, reported that preparations were underway to implement an electronic voting system inside parliament.
The minister of legal and parliamentary affairs reportedly attended the testing of the new system back then, along with the minister of communications and technology, according to the website.
This system, however, seems not to have seen the light, with the parliament speaker still relying on a show of hands to vote.
Hariri highlights the need to implement the electronic voting system, and calls on the parliament speaker to start using it.
“The MPs need to be trained on it and we need to familiarize ourselves with it,” he says.
Hariri explains that so far they have been voting on issues that showed a clear majority, so it hasn’t been a problem. However, noted that some issues require a 200-member majority, for example, as stipulated by the constitution.
“If you’re relying on a show of hands, how can you guarantee that it wasn’t 199 or 198 votes?” he asks.
“I hope the parliament speaker is willing and prepared to use the electronic system to vote,” Hariri says.
The tedious process not only riled some MPs, but it also left others fatigued. Their condition was conveyed through the microphones, which were switched on, a fact that some MPs were oblivious to.
“You need to recharge,” one MP consoled another. “If there’s candy, have some candy. You need sugar in your blood.”
Other MPs were also discussing the possibility of providing a meal.
“Is there no lunch or dinner?” one MP asked.
“They’re saying there’s no money,” another responded.
However, both were reassured when another MP told them there were 600 meals in the back.