Chancellor Hanafy Gebaly was elected, on Tuesday, as the speaker of the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Egyptian parliament, winning 508 votes out of 576. The election of Gebaly came after he was nominated for the position by the Nation’s Future Party, which seizes 316 seats out of the 596 seats of the house. Gebaly’s nomination raises questions because he has replaced Ali Abdel Aal, the previous speaker of the parliament, although Abdel Aal was known for his loyalty to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his submissiveness to the security bodies, which hold the real power over parliament.
The choice of Abdel Aal was already controversial considering his low-profile and lack of political experience. He appeared to be of too low a standing to assume such an important position, at least on the formal level even if the position is devoid of real power. After his nomination, Ibrahim Issa, the well-known Egyptian journalist, criticised the choice commenting, “The person who sits on the chair of parliament’s presidency has to have a personality able to treat and abort crises, and be characterised by neutrality and objectivity.”
Nevertheless, the choice of Gebaly is not much better. Although he assumed the presidency of the constitutional court between 2018 and 2019, Gebaly, like Abdel Aal, is devoid of any political experience. This is besides his old age as he is 71-years-old. Moreover, he has got bad reputation as a judge with his rules that appeared biased to the ruling regime. The most important of those rules was the one issued in March 2018 in the case of the Maritime Delimitation Agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia; the agreement that included the concession of the Tiran and Sanfir Islands by Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
In January 2017, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled nullifying the agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and Chancellor Ahmed al-Shazly, the president of the court, said in his rule, “The sovereignty of Egypt over Tiran and Sanafir is definitive.” Nevertheless, the Interim Relief Court ruled three months later nullifying the rule of the Administrative Court. The conflict between courts’ rules was brought before the Constitutional Court, which has both symbolic and legal status over the presidency, which signed the agreement, which made it the centre of the people’s hopes that Tiran and Sanafir would be returned.
Chancellor Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek, then president of the Constitutional Court, pardoned the case, which raises concerns about a probable political intervention to impose a pro-agreement rule. Then, Gebaly assumed the case and sanctioned the agreement and the concession of the Tiran and Sanafir Islands to Saudi Arabia. In conclusion, while Gebaly was chosen to be the speaker of the parliament, al-Shazly, who ruled against the authority’s decision, was excluded from the presidency of the State Council despite his seniority.
Another controversial rule issued by Gebaly was of the constitutionality of the Public Authority of Censorship on Artistic Works decisions to withdraw a previously issued licence from a film if this film appeared later to contradict public order and morals. The rule was seen to represent a conservative stance against artistic freedom.
Earlier, Chancellor Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek, the president of the Constitutional Court before Gebaly, was elected as the speaker of the senate. Along with Gebaly, Mohamed Aboul Enein, the well-known tycoon, and Ahmed Saadeddine, a previous chancellor and parliamentarian, were elected as deputy speakers. In conclusion, the leadership of the parliament, in both its chambers, has been entirely handed over to the men of al-Sisi’s regime to create a parliament without opposition.