Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s call for parliamentary elections starting in April will worsen the country’s political crisis, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said, as Islamist groups backed the plan.
The president issued a decree late yesterday to hold a four-stage election starting April 27 and ending in late June, with the new assembly to meet on July 6. Mursi, who faces a rift with some of his Islamist allies, had expressed hope that the vote would end unrest that has led to sporadic violence and thwarted an economic recovery.
“Holding the elections amid the persisting social tension and fragility of state institutions and before reaching a national consensus is irresponsible and will inflame the situation,” ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate who led the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Twitter today.
ElBaradei’s National Salvation Front, the broadest secular group, has threatened to boycott elections unless voting is delayed to allow tensions to ease, the economy to recover and the constitution to be amended to reverse measures it says were imposed by Islamists. Mursi, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, has resisted opposition calls for a national unity government.
Two years after the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, unrest has kept tourists and investors away and left the economy growing at the slowest pace in two decades. Egypt is in “crisis” and can’t recover without a much-delayed $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan accord, Planning and Investment Minister Ashraf El-Arabi said yesterday.
Islamist groups backed Mursi’s election decision. Essam El-Erian, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, predicted that Islamists who took more than 70 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary ballot will win again this time.
The parliament that emerged from that election, which started in November 2011 and spread over five weeks, as dissolved by Egypt’s top court in June last year, the same month Mursi was elected.
The Salafi Nour Party, which has clashed with Mursi recently after he dismissed one of its members as an adviser, also expressed support. Elections “can be a way out of the current political crisis” and participation is a “national duty,” spokesman Nader Bakkar said by phone today. Nour finished second last time behind the Brotherhood’s party.
Various groups are in talks to form a “strong Islamist electoral coalition,” Nasr Abdel Salam, head of the ultra-conservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya’s political party, said by phone today.
Mursi’s critics say the president, who became the country’s first democratically elected civilian leader in June, has sought to advance the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood while failing to revive the economy or address social needs. Protests against his rule have frequently led to outbreaks of violence, with more than 50 people killed in clashes this year.
In Cairo and Port Said, protesters gathered for anti-government rallies today, urging the dismissal of the Mursi-appointed prosecutor-general and the immediate release of detained political activists.
“What election is Mursi talking about?” said Ahmed Ibrahim, one of thousands of anti-Mursi protesters said by phone from Port Said today “We don’t want elections before people’s demands are met. The president has lost his legitimacy.”
Organizers said the rallies are first step toward a nationwide civil-disobedience campaign, drawing on continuing protests in Alexandria and the Suez Canal cities of Ismailia and Suez.
In the Nile Delta province of Al Gharbiya, police fired shots in the air to disperse protesters who were trying to storm the headquarters of the province’s Security Directorate, according to the official Middle East News Agency.
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