1 of 17
Associated Press
Parliament members count ballots after the voting for a new parliament speaker during the first session after the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. The parliament elected in Egypt's first legislative vote after Hosni Mubarak's ouster nearly a year ago held its inaugural session on Monday, with Islamists dominating the 498-seat chamber that will oversee the drafting of a new constitution. (AP Photo/Khaled Elfiqi,Pool)

CAIRO — It was a raucous beginning Monday for Egypt's first democratically elected parliament in 60 years.

Islamist lawmakers added religious references to the oath of office. Liberal lawmakers improvised too, adding a pledge to protect the "revolution" that ousted Hosni Mubarak. Some wore scarves with words protesting military trials for civilians. Shouting matches erupted. Hundreds massed outside, calling on the ruling generals to step down.

And millions of Egyptians watched it all unfold live on TV.

The opening session of parliament offered a stark contrast to past decades, when Egyptians knew that lawmakers came to office through deeply fraudulent elections engineered by the authorities, including the police, to ensure that the ruling party won comfortably. Apathetic and demoralized, they paid little or no heed to what lawmakers did or said.

All that came to an end when the new legislature was elected in balloting staggered over six weeks beginning Nov. 28. Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most disciplined political group in the nation of 85 million people, won about 70 percent of the parliament's 508 seats.

The Brotherhood had been banned for most of its 84-year history, legalized only after the uprising that began a year ago Wednesday and toppled Mubarak, Egypt's authoritarian ruler for nearly three decades.

The chamber's top priority will be to elect a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution, which will have to be put to a vote in a referendum.

The next major step in the transition will be a presidential election, scheduled to be held before the end of June, when the generals who took over from Mubarak are due to step down.

The lawmakers took office at a time when Egypt appears divided and near despairing.