Egypt's Islamist-Led Parliament Holds First Session; Several Modify Oath

Egypt's newly-elected lower house of parliament convened for the first time ever on Monday, but already immediately caused controversy as several members attempted to amend their oaths as they were sworn in to office.

The meeting is the first between Egypt's newly elected lawmakers since former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year.

The inaugural session commenced fittingly with a moment of silence in memory of the hundreds of people killed in anti-government protests over the past year. However, the landmark meeting then saw members take it in turns to be sworn in to office, and pledging themselves to the constitution and the Egyptian rule of law.

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In a potential indication of future rivalry and rifts to come, several members tried to re-word their oaths; one Islamist member instead vowed his allegiance to God's law, and several other liberal members attempted to pledge themselves to continue the anti-Mubarak revolution.

The unexpected departure from official wording was not well received, however, and house chair, Mahmoud el-Saqqah, immediately demanded that the offenders repeat the oath with the original wording.

The once-banned Muslim Brotherhood were the big winners in the recent marathon election process in Egypt, with its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) winning almost 50 percent of the assembly's 498 elected seats.

The ultra-conservative Islamist group Al-Nur Party came in second in the elections with about 25 percent of the seats.

The overwhelming Islamist-majority parliament immediately backed the Muslim Brotherhood's nominee for speaker of the house, Saad Katatni, who won a vote late on Monday.

In addition to the 498, another 10 will be appointed by the ruling military.

In the elections no women won individual seats, so that only about 1 percent of the final body will be female.

The head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, has elected the final 10 members of the 508-seat chamber, and his selections included three further women as well as five Coptic Christians.

Later this month, phased elections for Egypt's parliament's less powerful upper house, the Shura Council, will commence. Together the two chambers will be commissioned to choose a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution, which will later be put to referendum.

The ruling military council has promised to hold a presidential election by June and will hand over power to the eventual winner.

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