Egypt's first parliament in three years convenes

Egypt's first parliament in three years convenes

Egypt’s first legislature in more than three years, a 596-seat chamber packed with supporters of president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has convened.

The assembly, elected in November and December, is also the first elected chamber since el-Sissi, as military chief, led the ousting of president Mohammed Morsi in 2013 following massive protests against the Islamist leader and his Muslim Brotherhood.

Sunday’s session is mostly a procedural one, with lawmakers taking the oath in turn.

The chamber is also expected to elect a speaker and two deputies.

The last parliament was dominated by Islamists and dissolved by a court ruling in 2012.

The new chamber’s first task will be to ratify some 300 presidential decrees issued by el-Sissi since taking office in June 2014 and interim president Adly Mansour before him.

The decrees include a law severely restricting street demonstrations and a terror law that curbs press freedoms and gives police vast powers.

After Morsi’s overthrow, El-Sissi announced three steps to take Egypt back to democratic rule – the adoption of a new constitution and presidential and parliamentary elections.

But the process has unfolded against the backdrop of a harsh crackdown on Islamists and other dissidents that has seen thousands jailed.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which swept every election following the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, is officially branded a terrorist group.

Turnout for last year’s parliamentary elections was around 30%, and most of those elected to the assembly support the president.

Egypt is grappling with an increasingly potent Islamist insurgency centred in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, which claimed the downing of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai in October that killed all 224 people on board and led to widespread flight cancellations, dealing a major blow to the vital tourism industry.

Egypt’s economy is barely staying afloat, with its local currency under pressure, tourism battered from years of turmoil and inflation at nearly 11%.

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