Ten years after the January revolution parliament seats are inherited, not earnt

Seats in Egypt’s parliament have become the inheritance of the daughters of parliament after their death. Daughters who may be deprived of their fathers’ inheritance against the law (and Islam) in some places in Egypt (especially Upper Egypt), inherit their fathers’ vacant seats in parliament.

This remarkable phenomenon has been repeated in the current parliament during the last two months when two members of the House of Representatives died, and their daughters inherited their vacant seats. At the beginning of this week, Asmaa, the daughter of MP Saad al-Jamal from the northern Upper Egypt sector, inherited his seat after his death. Fawzi Fata, the MP from the national list in Dakahlia (north) who died before the new parliament started will be replaced by his daughter Aya. These two incidents sparked widespread controversy, as it is something out of the ordinary in parliamentary norms.

Observers considered the matter to be a form of political inheritance, against which the January 2011 revolution erupted and deposed the late President Hosni Mubarak. His desire to pass on his power to his son Gamal was among the criticisms levelled against him. Political inheritance critics say that the members of the National Democratic Party (NDP), which the majority of the National List members that won the majority of parliament seats belonged to despite it being dissolved after the revolution, have succeeded in what their leader Mubarak failed in. Their sons and daughters inherited their seats.

Article (25) of the House of Representatives law states that “if the seat of one of the elected members becomes vacant in the list system, one of the alternate candidates will replace him, according to the arrangement of reserve names.” In all cases, the vacant seat must be occupied within 60 days at most from the date the House of Representatives decides that the seat is empty. The term of the new member is to complement the period of his predecessor, according to the text of the article. This already happened in 2015 in Dakahlia Governorate. By implication, the voter also elected the one who was escalated to succeed the deceased.

Former parliamentarian Usama Suleiman says that the main issue here is related to the voter’s awareness that the son (or daughter) is a substitute for the father without parliamentary or political experience. He adds, “The voter must then decide not to vote for the entire list, which leads the list-makers at that time to avoid losing the list by adding names with appropriate political or parliamentary expertise.”

The publisher and activist Hisham Qassem expressed his surprise at the late MP’s choice of his daughter as his backup, pointing out that this is “very common,” as there are many relatives of members who occupy the reserve seats. He pointed out that the reason behind this arrangement is not clear in his opinion and asks: “Did this come about because of the donations they paid to obtain the candidacy so that the parliament seat became family property?” Qassem continues: “Were there different degrees of candidacy, for example, a normal candidacy and a hereditary candidacy? What is the difference in the price between them?” He affirms that “no one knows now, just as no one knows where the donation money has gone, was it used all or part of it in election campaigns, or entered a special fund, or are we facing a corruption case of a heavy calibre, from the one that has become repeated without being monitored after the media was muzzled.”

Press reports mentioned that a number of the National List candidates paid huge sums amounting, in some estimates, to EGP 30 million (about $2 million) in order to secure joining the National List for Egypt nominated for parliament, which is composed of some parties close to the authority, headed by the Nation’s Future Party (NFD), which observers believe it is an extension of the NDP. Observers emphasised that running on that list is a guarantee of winning membership in parliament, given that the list is backed by the authority, which has already happened.

What is certain, Qassem says, is the occurrence of “more shocks and scandals of different shapes and colours, and as the sample is clear, every day a new tragedy or comedy occurs, and the expected failure is many times the previous one.” Qassem points out that this “manipulation” is an insult to a country whose parliament dates back to 1866 or more than a century and a half now, and established its first constitution in 1882, meaning that it chose to be in the ranks of civilised countries, but instead it sank in this situation. He affirms that “this absurdity will not pass without reckoning, and the country that once pioneered is able to correct its course and put an end to this unfortunate deviation and civilisational apostasy.”