Egyptian parliament opens after historic free election

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The Independent Online

Egypt's parliament opened yesterday for the first time since a historic free election put Islamists in the driving seat after years of repression under the deposed President Hosni Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) was the biggest winner in the first free vote in decades. It has vowed to guide Egypt in the transition to civilian rule. Generals took charge after the popular uprising that began on 25 January and ended with Mr Mubarak leaving office on 11 February.

"I invite the distinguished assembly to stand and read the fatiha [Muslim prayer] in memory of the martyrs of the 25 January revolution ... because the blood of the martyrs is what brought this day," said Mahmoud al-Saqa, 81, a member of the liberal Wafd party, who as oldest member of the house acted as Speaker. After commemorating with the silent prayer, each member read the oath of office. Some wore bright yellow sashes in protest against military trials of civilians. One Islamist member, Mamdouh Ismail, read the oath of allegiance to the nation and its laws but added his own words "so long as it does not oppose God's law", prompting the Speaker to tell him to repeat it without his own addition.

The rise of the Islamists is a massive change from the Mubarak era when parliament was a compliant body stuffed with members of his National Democratic Party, which put loyalty and self-interest before religion or ideology. The Brotherhood was officially banned but won some seats by running "independent" candidates.

Generals will remain in charge until after a presidential election in June.