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Islamist chosen as speaker of upper house

CAIRO — Egypt’s newly elected upper house of parliament picked an Islamist as its speaker on Tuesday, consolidating control by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party over the two legislative chambers.

The election of pharmacology professor Ahmed Fahmy as speaker of the Shura Council came during the chamber’s inaugural session.

Saad el-Katatni, like Mr. Fahmy a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, was elected speaker of the more powerful lower house, or People’s Assembly, on Jan. 23.

The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s oldest and most powerful Islamist group. Its Freedom and Justice Party members hold just under half of all seats in the 508-seat lower house and 106 of the Shura Council’s 180 elected seats.

An additional 90 lawmakers are due to be appointed by the ruling generals who took over power when Egypt’s longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted after a popular uprising a year ago.

The generals are expected to leave the appointments to the nation’s next president, due to be elected before the end of June. Then the generals say they will hand over power to a civilian government.

Ultra-orthodox Islamists known as Salafis made strong showings in elections for both chambers, finishing second behind the Freedom and Justice Party and giving parliament a distinct Islamist character.

The two houses are due to hold a joint session later this week to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports