Islamists won the majority of individual and party list seats in Egypt's Shura Council, the upper house of the Egyptian parliament, in the final stage of the first democratic elections held after the fall of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.
The Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, won 106 seats in the Shura Council elections (58%), the Salafist al-Nour Party 54 seats (25%), the liberal al-Wafd Party 14 seats (7.7%), and the Egyptian Bloc Alliance parties 8 seats (4.4%).
The Shura Council elections were held in two phases to elect 180 representatives, two thirds of its members. The country's new president, who will be elected within the next few months, will appoint the remaining third, bringing the total to 270 council members.
Abdel Moez Ibrahim, president of the High Elections Committee (HEC), said in a press conference on Saturday (February 25th) that voter turnout rate in the second round of the second phase of the Shura Council elections for individual seats was 7.2%, with 1,794,947 out of 24 million eligible voters casting ballots, and 57,631 votes declared invalid.
The Shura Council is scheduled to convene its first session on Tuesday (February 28th) morning in which the council speaker will be elected, under the chairmanship of its oldest member.
The Freedom and Justice Party formally announced its nomination of Dr. Ahmed Fahmy, the party's parliamentarian for al-Sharqiya province, for the speaker position, and its selection of Ali Fath al-Bab as its representative on the parliamentary committee and for Shura Council majority leader.
"In contrast to previous elections, these elections were free of administrative or governmental intervention and were fair and transparent, except for a few isolated violations that do not tarnish the legitimacy of the electoral process," said Yusri al-Izbawi, an expert with Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
"The importance of the parliamentary elections lies in the fact that they were an endeavour to lift the political uncertainty that followed the revolution and to end the transition period under the military council that commenced upon the fall of the Mubarak regime," he said.
Experts attribute the low voter turnout for the Shura Council election to the weakness of its legislative powers.
The Egyptian parliament is a bicameral legislature consisting of two houses, the People's Assembly and the Shura Council.
The People's Assembly is charged with approving and passing legislation, in addition to its oversight of the executive branch, while the Shura Council's legislative role is limited to discussing draft laws, in addition to other functions such as overseeing specialised National Councils and the Supreme Press Council.
Both houses are slated to convene in a joint meeting to elect the constituent committee, which will be charged with drafting a new constitution for the country.
Mohammed Attiya, Minister of State for People's Assembly and Shura Council Affairs, called on Sunday during a press conference for expanding the role of the Shura Council by increasing its legislative and oversight powers to match the People's Assembly, considering the vast scientific and intellectual experience of many of its members who ought to play a role in the legislative process, he said.
Baha Abu Shaqqa, an al-Wafd party leader, said in a previous interview with Al-Shorfa, "The 1971 Constitution, which was in effect until the revolution, granted the Shura Council neither legislative nor regulatory powers, placing it entirely in the People's Assembly. However, the new constitution, whose draft will be completed next month, is expected to grant the Shura Council new powers to strike a balance between it and the People's Assembly."
Samir Farid, a journalist and author, said the Shura Council is of great importance at this critical stage because many of its elder members possess vast experience, do not nominate themselves in the People's Assembly elections, and do not engage in partisan political activities.
"The nation needs their experience in debating laws and the challenges facing the country at this juncture, and all democratic countries have a Senate that is consulted on legislative and important matters," he added.