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Egypt Nour Says Consensus Unlikely on Early Power Transfer

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The head of Egypt’s Islamist Nour party, whose bloc came second in parliamentary elections, said he doubts political groups will unite behind calls for the ruling generals to cede power earlier than a June deadline.

“The idea that the date be moved forward has been proposed but I don’t think there will be a national consensus on this,” Emad Abdel Ghafour, who is also a member of a civilian body advising the military council on the transition, said ahead of a meeting to discuss the proposal. “Moving the date forward by five weeks or so isn’t worth having political struggles over.”

The council that took over interim rule from Hosni Mubarak last February has come under renewed pressure from protesters to immediately cede power to civilians. Seven weeks of elections failed to placate activists, who say the military council has mismanaged the transition, cracked down on demonstrations and used Mubarak-style tactics to stifle dissent.

The civilian advisory council will hold a meeting tonight to discuss proposals to shorten the transitional period “to ensure a safe and quick transfer of power to the hands of an elected civilian president,” the state-run Middle East News Agency reported yesterday. The discussions will last for two days and the results of the talks will be presented to the military council, MENA said.

Societal Pressure

“If there’s enough pressure then the military may be forced to consider moving up the timetable. I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “There would have to be a broad societal consensus in support of moving the presidential elections date up and that would have to include a strong stand on the part of the Brotherhood and the Salafis. Without their support for moving up the timetable, it will be difficult.”

The Nour party represents followers of the austere Salafi interpretation of Islam.

The ruling generals have said they would only cede power when a president is elected by the end of June. Registration of candidates in Egypt’s first presidential election since the ouster of Mubarak will start on April 15, state media reported earlier this month. That date “is very acceptable,” Abdel Ghafour said.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose party controls the most seats in parliament, hasn’t lent its support to demands that the generals immediately leave.

Activists marked the Jan. 25 anniversary of the start of the protests that ended Mubarak’s three-decade reign with rallies against military rule. Protesters are divided on who should take over, with some arguing that parliament should inherit the army council’s powers until a president is elected.

ElBaradei’s Proposal

Democracy advocate and Egyptian Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei proposed a different plan for the transition on his Twitter account. He called for an interim president to be elected by parliament, then a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution before a vote for a president under the new charter.

The wrangling comes as Egyptians vote for the second day today in elections for the upper house of parliament, known as the Shura council, a consultative body.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at mfam1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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