The Evolution of the Parliamentary Life in Egypt in 150 Years
Wednesday، 28 September 2016 - 01:09 PM
1. The High Council… Origin, Composition and Competencies
By: Dr. Ahmad Abul-Hassan Zarad
Historians unanimously stressed the fact that Mohammad Ali
(1769-1849) is the founder of the modern Egyptian state and the reviver of its
renaissance. His era (1805 - 1848) witnessed reforms in various aspects of
political, economic, social, cultural fields, and others. He built up the army
and established the military school and the marine shipyard in Alexandria.
Additionally, he improved agriculture and irrigation, and established barrages,
dams and canals. Moreover, he set up factories and schools at different levels
and specializations, as well as he sent missions to Europe.
Origin and Composition:
In 1824, Mohammed Ali thought about the creation of a council that
should help him to govern Egypt through consultation; therefore, he formed the
High Council to serve as the first parliamentary Council. It consisted of 156
members; 33 were from the high-ranking government employees and Ulamas,
24 province chiefs, and 99 elected Egyptian dignitaries. At that time, Egypt's
population was 2.56 million; i.e. each parliamentary deputy represented 17,000
The Right to Propose Issues under Discussion:
On January 3, 1825, the High Council issued a basic statute. It
included three main aspects to be discussed by the Council. The first aspect
tackled whatever Mohammad Ali suggested or postulated with regard to his
domestic policy. The second tackled the proposals made by the Chairman of the
Council, the ministers and the government employees to consider its pros and
cons. The third aspect tackled the stakeholders’ problems that might face them
during doing their jobs. The High Council consisted of the Secretary General,
Turkish-Arabic languages translators, clerks and assistants.
Mohammad Ali Attends the
Council when Discussing Important Laws:
Mohammad Ali paid due attention to this council. In this respect,
he was keen to attend its sessions when discussing important laws on tightening
security and order in the country. This special concern was also manifested in giving
it many names like: The High Council,
Khedive Consultative Council, Advisory Council of Representatives, Shura
Council, Higher Council, Public Council, Egyptian Council of Representatives,
The Council was first convened in the Citadel Palace, then in the
High Council. When Cholera spread in Egypt, the sessions were held in tents
near the Shubra Palace, where the members used to spend their nights there.
In his book "Era of Mohammad Ali Pasha" (P.516/517)
Al-Rafe'i mentions that the year 1829 had witnessed the formation of the
Consultation Council; which is the High Council in terms of formation. The
first session was held on September 2, 1829 at Ibrahim Pasha Palace (High
Palace) which is currently located in Garden City, Cairo.
Subjects Tackled by the Council:
The ordinary sessions of the High Council were held annually for
two and a half months. Thirteen years later, on May 13, 1837, Mohammad Ali
issued a decree resolving the Council.
According to the previously mentioned book of Al-Rafe'i, the Council
used to discuss matters closely related to education, works and judiciary. Most
of these matters were proposed by the Council’s staffers. Its first resolution
was on education; i.e., establishing a bureau for teaching the Diwan’s clerks
both the Arabic and Turkish languages. When a number of clerks are taught such
languages, they are sent to the provinces and others come to be taught, and so
on until all clerks are qualified to administer the governmental
The High Council’s resolutions, also, included that farmers shall
work on cleaning water channels, building barrages and repairing bridges during
the months of September, October, December, January, February, March and June
since the farmers are busy, all through the other months of the year, in
cultivating and harvesting cotton. This is in addition to providing job
opportunities in the State-owned factories for beggars on daily wages. Such
resolution had a great impact on boosting the learning of industries as well as
The Council, also, discussed the way of punishing both employees
and chiefs of villages in case they accept any bribe or seize people’s money.
In this respect, the Council decided to force them pay back the amount of money
they had taken and impose deterrent penalties upon them.
It is noteworthy that the High Council, as reported by some
historians, had not only a legislative authority but also an executive and a
judicial authority concerning the management of the Egyptian provinces.
Rahman Al-Rafe’i, The Era of Mohamed Ali.
Khalil Sobhi, The History of Parliamentary Life in Egypt, Part IV.
Ali El-Din Helal, The Evolution of the Political System in Egypt (1805-2005).
Abul Hassan Zarad and Adel Ali, Parliament 2015…People’s Will and Nation’s
Conscience. Publisher: State Information Service, January 2016