New Egyptian parliament opens


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The Independent Online

The Egyptian parliament elected in the nation's first election following the ousting of Hosni Mubarak nearly a year ago has opened its inaugural session.

The 498-seat chamber dominated by Islamists is expected to elect a speaker and two deputies today.

The session was led by the oldest politician, Mahmoud el-Saqqah.

Starting on November 28 and lasting several weeks, the parliamentary election was the freest in Egypt's modern history.

The lower and more powerful of parliament's two chambers, known as the People's Assembly, is due to elect a speaker and two deputies later in the session.

The speaker is expected to come from the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist group which won just under half of the seats.

Elections for parliament's upper chamber, a largely toothless body known as the Shura Council, will begin later this month.

The chamber's top priority is to elect a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution, which will have to be put to a vote in a nationwide referendum.

Presidential elections are scheduled to be held before the end of June, when the military generals who took over from Mubarak in February last year are due to step down.

Mubarak was forced out of office by an 18-day popular uprising.

Several independent politicians and others representing the liberal groups that engineered the anti-Mubarak uprising wore arm bands saying "No to military trials", a reference to the hauling of at least 12,000 civilians before military tribunals since the generals took over power 11 months ago.

Mr el-Saqqah began the proceedings by ordering politicians to stand in silence for a minute in memory of the hundreds of people killed during the protests.

Mubarak, 83, is on trial for complicity in the killing of the protesters. He could face the death penalty if convicted.