Egypt Gets Ready to Reinstitute its Senate

(Cairo) Preparations are being made in Egypt for the reinstitution of the senate, almost nine years after it was cancelled out in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising that ended the Hosni Mubarak autocracy.

The House of Deputies (parliament) is now debating a bill that will regulate the makeup of the senate, its elections and its specific mission.

“All political forces will be consulted about the bill so that it can express the views of all these forces,” Salah Hasaballah, the spokesman of the parliament said. “We are keen to listen to all views about it.”

Egypt’s parliament was bicameral for decades in the past, but following Mubarak’s ousting, the nation’s political forces believed that the senate, which used to be the upper house of parliament, was useless and was an extra burden on the state budget.

The senate was officially cancelled out by the 2014 constitution, which replaced the 2012 constitution.

Nevertheless, in April 2019, amendments approved by Egyptians to the 2014 constitution officially reinstituted the senate.

The presence of a second chamber of parliament, Egyptian legislators say, is important if the legislature will carry out its job properly.

“The senate will have full legislative powers, which means it will be equally important to the House of Deputies,” said Mohamed Farag, the assistant secretary-general of the leftist Unionist Progressive Party.

According to the 2014 constitution, the senate will contain 240 seats in all. The president of the republic will have the right to appoint 80 members of the senate, whereas the remaining 160 seats will be filled through elections.

The bill now being debated by parliament makes it necessary for 80 of the 160 seats to be filled by the nation’s political parties and the remaining 80 to be filled by independents.

Nevertheless, the political parties want all the 160 seats to be reserved for them. This, they say, will perk up the political life and give the chance for political parties not represented in the House of Deputies to be represented in the senate and consequently play a role on the national political stage.

The political parties have already started preparing for the senate elections, which are expected to be held either later this year or early next year.

There are over 100 political parties in Egypt, most of which emerged after the downfall of the Hosni Mubarak regime which imposed strict rules for the founding and licensing of political parties.

Until Mubarak left the political stage, there were two-dozen political parties, most of which acted as an ineffective chorus to the ruling National Democratic Party.

Also, few of the political parties on the political stage now are effective. Only a handful of these parties are represented in the House of Deputies.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on the political parties more than once in the past five years to merge into each other to form two or three strong political parties that could have real presence on the political stage. He once said that Egypt did not need all these political parties to be present.

Most of the political parties have identical platforms and no real presence on the streets.

Nevertheless, most of the nation’s marginal political parties will be trying to assert themselves on the political stage during the senate elections, political observers said.

These parties will do this by fielding candidates and competing strongly to grab seats inside this senate, they added.

Yasser al-Hudaibi, the deputy head of the liberal al-Wafd Party which used to be the main opposition party under Mubarak, said his party had already started preparing for the elections by picking potential candidates and preparing a campaign.

“The senate will play an important role on the national legislative stage,” Hudaibi said. “This is why we prepare very seriously for the elections.”