Egypt’s Mursi Seeks Talks on April Election, MENA Says

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi invited opposition leaders to talks on parliamentary elections which many opposition groups have threatened to boycott.

Mursi, in an interview with Al-Mehwar television, invited parties to a dialogue today to discuss how to guarantee the integrity of the elections. Opposition groups have largely shunned his calls for talks and say voting is premature amid economic and political crisis.

Voting is set to begin April 22, after a shift to accommodate a Coptic Christian holiday, and conclude in June. The president and his Islamist backers say it’s key to restoring stability and reviving the economy. With growth at a two-decade low and reserves down more than 60 percent since 2010, Egypt is seeking a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan.

Opposition groups including the Constitution Party headed by Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei have called for a boycott of the vote, which was pushed forward a few days to avoid clashing with a Coptic Christian holiday. ElBaradei said on Feb. 23 he would not be “part of an act of deception.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has criticized the boycott calls as an example of the opposition’s failure to win over the masses. The Salafi Nour Party, followers of an ultra-orthodox brand of Islam, will meet today to discuss the vote, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. It had backed calls for a national unity government by ElBaradei and other opposition leaders,

‘Acceptable’ Performance

Nour and the secular opposition say the government of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has failed to provide stability or improve the economy. Mursi conceded there were problems, saying the government’s performance was “acceptable” while noting a new one would take over after the parliamentary vote.

“We’re in an era of freedom and social justice, but we’re still at the beginning of a long road to stability,” Mursi said.

The president criticized the past week’s protests in Port Said over death sentences handed to local soccer supporters. Clashes in the Suez Canal city last month left at least 30 people dead.

“Civil disobedience should come through the people’s will to express their opinions in peaceful ways, and not by threatening people at gun point,” he said.

Mursi, the country’s first democratically elected civilian president, was asked about the calls by protesters for him to leave -- an echo of the demands that helped engineer Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011. He said it was important to differentiate between opinions and “real legitimacy that reflects the real will of the Egyptians.”

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