Egypt: On Sunday, Egypt’s new parliament elected a constitutional expert as its speaker, meeting for the first time in more than three years, a key position as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi looks to push through more than 200 laws issued by executive decree while the assembly was suspended. Ali Abdelaal, a French-educated lawyer who helped draft the constitution and election law, is a member of the “Support Egypt” coalition, an alliance of over 400 MPs loyal to Sisi.
As speaker, Abdelaal is now first in the line of succession in case of the death or permanent incapacity of the president, until new elections are held. He quickly moved to impose his authority over the traditionally chaotic and unruly body. “I know the constitution by heart. I wrote this constitution, nobody holds it up to me,” he barked at a lawmaker who spoke out of turn to insist parliament was constitutionally obliged to elect deputy speakers in its first session after Abdelaal moved to adjourn it.
Egypt’s last parliament was elected in 2011-12 in the country’s first free vote since a popular January 2011 uprising that ended autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. The parliament was dominated by Islamists and a court dissolved it in mid-2012 after ruling that the election laws at the time were unconstitutional. A year later, Mubarak’s elected successor, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, was himself overthrown by the military led by Sisi after mass protests against his rule in June 2013. “I express my sincere thanks and appreciation towards the leader of the way, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” Abdelaal said upon assuming office.
“I will always be a defender of democracy and the principles of the Jan. 25 and June. 30 revolutions. I will also be a protector of the people’s army and defender of its unity.”The newly elected legislature has 15 days to approve hundreds of laws issued by executive decree during the period when it was suspended.Dominated by Sisi loyalists, it has 568 elected members plus another 28 appointed directly by him. It was chosen in elections that critics said were undermined by a security crackdown on Islamist and other opposition groups.
Abdelaal helped author the election law on which the parliament was elected last October and November.He boasts a long history as a state insider, having started his career as a prosecutor and served as cultural attache in Paris, as well as teaching law at the police academy and a military college.