Egypt’s April Vote Criticized as Port Said Rallies Escalate

Mohamed ElBaradei, a senior member of Egypt’s opposition, urged supporters to boycott parliamentary elections set to begin in April, while President Mohamed Mursi adjusted the voting schedule after complaints over a clash with Easter for the Coptic Christian minority.

ElBaradei, a leader in the National Salvation Front coalition and head of the Constitution Party, made the call today on Twitter. The bloc had threatened a boycott unless voting was delayed to allow for tensions to ease, the economy to recover and the constitution to be amended to reverse measures the opposition says were imposed by Islamists.

“Called for parliamentary election boycott in 2010 to expose sham democracy,” ElBaradei said on Twitter. “Today I repeat my call, will not be part of an act of deception.”

The Cairo-based headquarters of the opposition Ghad El-Thawra party, founded by Ayman Nour, was torched yesterday by masked men, the state-run Ahram Gate news website reported. Nour, a member of the NSF, met with Mursi last week and said he would be ready to take up a leadership position if invited to do so by the president, according to Ahram.

Mohamed Abul Einein, head of the opposition Wafd Party’s parliamentary delegation, announced a hunger strike and sit-in at the Shura Council, which has legislative authority, to protest new electoral districts drawn up on Feb. 21 by the council, Ahram Gate reported. He called for Prime Minister Hisham Qandil’s resignation.

Muslim Brotherhood

Mursi, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, has resisted demands for a national unity government. Islamist parties welcomed Mursi’s decree two days ago to hold a four-stage parliamentary election starting April 27 and ending in June, with the new assembly to gather on July 6.

Mursi shifted the start of the elections to avoid clashing with the Christian holidays, Ahram Gate news website reported. The first round of polling in Cairo, Buheira, Minya, Port Said and North Sinai provinces will be held April 22 and 23, with the last round held on June 15 and 16, with parliament due to convene on July 2. Copts will observe Easter on May 5.

The president, who faces a rift with some of his Islamist allies, had expressed hope that the vote would end the unrest and violence that has spooked investors and damaged the economy since the uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Civil Disobedience

Port Said entered its seventh day of civil disobedience with young soccer fans, known as the Ultras, blocking all entrances and exits to the Mediterranean coastal city, laying siege to the governor’s office, and closing the customs building, according to a faxed statement by Amir Abulezz, the counsel for the attorney general at Port Said prosecutions.

The customs building was closed for six hours before the armed forces and police reopened it. Military police took over traffic control on Port Said’s main streets, according to the statement.

Protesters in Cairo and Port Said gathered for anti-government rallies yesterday urging the dismissal of the Mursi-appointed Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah and the immediate release of detained political activists. Organizers said the rallies are the first step toward a nationwide civil-disobedience campaign, drawing on continuing protests in Alexandria and the Suez Canal cities of Ismailia and Suez.

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