24 Jan 2012

New parliament meets in Egypt

7:48 am on 24 January 2012

Egypt's new parliament has held its first meeting since the uprising last February that forced former President Hosni Mubarak from power.

Mohammed Saad al-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party was elected as speaker at the inaugural session of the lower chamber, the People's Assembly.

State media say Mr Katatni was backed by 399 of the 503 MPs.

Monday's session was chaired by Mahmoud al-Saqqa, 81, of the New Wafd party, the oldest member of the assembly.

He began proceedings by ordering a moment of silence for the 850 people who were killed during the 18-day uprising against Mr Mubarak.

''This parliament bears a heavy burden, because it must achieve the people's ambitions,'' Mr Katatni told Nile News TV before the session began.

''I believe that this parliament will in its first session reach agreement on the rights of martyrs, the injured as well as the poor, who were marginalised under the former regime.''

Held over three phases between 28 November - 11 January, the elections were dominated by Islamist parties, which won 73% of the seats.

The Freedom and Justice Party won 235 seats, the ultraNour Party 121 and the al-Wasat Party 10.

The BBC reports the priority for the People's Assembly is to select a panel with 100 members to draft a new constitution for a referendum before a presidential election in June, when the ruling generals are scheduled to step down.