Exhibition: History of Egyptian Parliaments and Constitutions
The Egyptian Parliament is the oldest legislative institution in the Arab World. It emerged with the consultative representative systems that started since Mohamed Ali assumed office and set down the principle regulations for the Supreme Council. It was one of the first parliamentary attempts to regulate the relationship between the ruler and the people, until Khedive Ismail came on 22 October 1866 and established the first representative parliament in the true sense of the word, namely the “Representative Consultative Council” (Maglis Shura al-Nowwab), modeled on the modern Western mode of establishing elected legislative institutions. These institutions represented the electorate and voiced their interests to the executive authority. The aim was to implement the modernizing theories of Khedive Ismail, which sought to establish a sound parliamentary life capable of truly expressing the interests and aspirations of the different sects and social strata of the Egyptian people.
The Representative Consultative Council was soon transformed into the Egyptian Representative Council in 1881, which issued the Statute of 7 February 1882, which was a true expression of what the members of the Council of Representatives had hoped for the Egyptian political system. However, Britain issued a decree effecting the destruction of the parliamentary system, allegedly to calm the state of affairs in Egypt. It was replaced in 1883 by another system represented in the “Councils of the First of May Law”, which declared the establishment of the Legal Consultative Council and the General Assembly. In early 1913, a new statutory law was issued, stipulating the establishment of a Legislative Assembly to replace the General Assembly and the Legal Consultative Council.
A new constitutional phase began with the declaration of the 1923 Constitution on 19 April of the same year. This Constitution was a great step on the road towards a sound parliamentary life in Egypt. It was issued in the wake of Britain’s official recognition that Egypt was an independent sovereign state. This was not available before, and under this Constitution the Parliament was formed, comprising the Council of Representatives and the Senate.
The 1923 Constitution was nullified with the issuance of the 1930 Constitution, issued on 22 October 1930. However, the 1930 Constitution did not survive long, because of the increasing pressures exerted on the King, as the whole of Egypt rejected him along with the political system that had brought him to power. On 19 December 1935, Royal Edict No. 142 of 1935 was issued, ordaining the reimplementation of the 1923 Constitution.
When the army officers carried out their Revolution on 23 July 1952, the Revolutionary Council declared on 10 December 1952 the fall of the 1923 Constitution. Egypt remained in a period of transition until late President Gamal Abdel Nasser declared, on 16 January 1956, a new constitution that regulated and stabilized state authority. This constitution came to be known as the 1956 Constitution, upon which was formed the first parliamentary council of the Revolution that started its first sittings on 22 July 1957. It came to be known as Maglis al-Umma (National Assembly), and it remained in effect until 10 February 1958. It was then succeeded by the Joint National Assembly in accordance with the Constitution of March 1958, in the wake of the Union with Syria. The Joint National Assembly remained in effect until 22 June 1961.
With the fall of the Union with Syria, in March 1964, a provisional constitution was issued, by which the elected National Assembly was established.
When late President Mohamed Anwar Sadat assumed office, he called upon the National Assembly, on 20 May 1971, to draft the permanent Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt and present it to the people to be voted upon in a referendum. On 11 September 1971, the permanent Constitution was issued in the wake of a referendum. With this Constitution, a new phase of modern and contemporary Egyptian history began. Under it, elections for the People’s Assembly were held, and the Assembly convened for its first sitting on 11 November 1971. It was the first Assembly to complete its constitutional cycle, namely a period of five full years.
In 1977, the People’s Assembly witnessed the Peace Initiative declared by President Sadat on 9 November 1977, and upon which the People’s Assembly consented to the two Camp David Agreements on 4 October 1978. The People’s Assembly then ratified the Peace Agreement on 10 April 1979.
Given the long-standing history of the Egyptian Parliament, we at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina were obliged to highlight the legislative institutions and constitutions in Egypt thru this exhibition and introduce it to the Lithuanian people thru a very special and rare collection of Photos and documents.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has taken on the responsibility of documenting all aspects of Egyptian life, whether intellectual, political, economic or social. Thus it has undertaken the production of two reference works dealing with the two parliamentary houses known in Egypt throughout its modern history, evolving into their final form known today as the Shoura Council and the People’s Assembly.
We present this commemorative exhibition in which we surveyed the development of Egyptian parliamentary life. And also we will show the two commemorative books, entitled “Egyptian People’s Assembly” and “Egyptian Shoura Council”, 2 unique works and a mixture of historical documentation and scientific research, based on an inside reading of the People’s Assembly and Egyptian Shoura Council,. It deals with the two Assemblies jurisdictions, membership prerequisites, sittings, relationship with the Cabinet, and most prominent figures. The books also include the achievements of the assemblies from the moment of its establishment until the present. Special focus is given to the female members.
Exhibition was prepared by:
Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt) in cooperation with Kultūros Centras “In Actio” (Lithuania).