Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s order for parliamentary elections to begin 27 April risks worsening the country’s political crisis, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said.
The president issued a decree late yesterday under which the four stages of balloting would end in late June, with the new assembly holding its first session 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. “Mursi’s decision to go for parliamentary elections amid severe societal polarization and eroding state authority is a recipe for disaster.”
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 led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, the continuing tensions have kept tourists and investors away, and foreign reserves are more than 60 percent below their end-2010 level. The unrest has resulted in the slowest pace in economic growth in two decades and delayed a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund agreement. Egypt is in an economic “crisis” from which it can’t recover without reaching a final accord with the IMF, Planning and Investment Minister Ashraf El-Arabi said yesterday.
Protesters began gathering in Cairo and Port Said after several opposition groups called for anti-government rallies today, saying Mursi and the Brotherhood must be held to account for crimes against Egyptians. The groups urged the dismissal of the Mursi-appointed prosecutor-general and the immediate release of detained political activists.
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.
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. The Brotherhood said yesterday it doesn’t interfere in the affairs of the presidency or other executive bodies.
Mursi also faced criticism from the Salafi Muslim Nour Party, which has backed the call for a unity coalition, after he dismissed one of its members as his environmental adviser.
The elections will be the first since the constitutional court dissolved the lower house of parliament in June, and the first full parliament seated under Mursi.
To contact the reporter on this story: Salma El Wardany in Cairo at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org