Egypt has taken its first steps towards the transfer of power from military to civilian rule with the opening session of the newly-elected Parliament. The new intake elected the parliament’s president and his two deputies; all three were in opposition to the former regime. The formal first session was held under the banner of “honouring the martyrs” and items for discussion will include the best way to honour those who were killed during last year’s revolution. This was the first time in 30 years that deposed president Hosni Mubarak was not in parliament for the opening session; he is on trial at the moment.
Hundreds of supporters of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al-Nour Salafi Party held a rally in the street outside the People’s Assembly (parliament) to welcome their elected MPs. They carried flags and banners calling on the MPs to “remember that your decisions are not above the rule of God” and not to betray Egypt, as the country “is in your hands”.
A heavy security presence was in evidence outside the parliament building.
Addressing the new MPs, Sheikh of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb asked them to remember that they “now represent the Egyptian people, not the electoral districts, and to remember the martyrs who sacrificed their lives”. He stressed that the MPs have the responsibility to continue with the goals of the revolution through to completion. “Remember your fellow citizens who are poor, marginalised, disadvantaged and oppressed,” he added, “and those who live in the graveyards and slums. They are all looking for justice and human dignity.” The Sheikh said that no one will be able to deceive the people after this historic day.
Parliament Street also witnessed its first demonstration of the new session, with protesters demanding the release of Islamists being held in Al-Akrab Prison. There are estimated to be 36 Islamists in Egypt’s prisons. The demonstrators said that they were jailed under unjust military tribunals during the former regime.