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Call for parliament vote boycott

Christians accuse Islamist president of showing disrespect to their religious festivities

Mohammad Al Baradei
Image Credit: AFP
Mohammad Al Baradei
Gulf News

Cairo: Egypt’s leading reformist Mohammed Al Baradei Saturday called for boycotting the forthcoming parliamentary elections, signalling prolongation of the country’s political deadlock.

“The people’s complete boycott of elections is the quickest way to expose bogus democracy,” said Al Baradei, a key leader of the main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front.

“I said this in 2010 and repeat it again today,” he added in a tweet, referring to the last legislative elections held under the regime of Husni Mubarak months before his ouster in a popular uprising.

Islamist President Mohammad Mursi Thursday decided hat Egypt’s legislative polls will be held in four rounds beginning on April 27, ignoring calls from the opposition to delay the vote due to the country’s political and economic turmoil.

Egypt has been for months gripped by a sharp political crisis over Mursi’s policy. At least 60 people have been killed in the past four weeks in anti-government protests, including 42 people in the restive Suez Canal City of Port Saeed.

The secular-leaning opposition accuses Mursi of betraying the revolution that brought him to power in June. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mursi hails, accuses the opposition of seeking to topple Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

The Popular Current, a major opposition movement led by former presidential contender Hamdeen Sabahi, has already said it will not participate in the polls in protest against Mursi’s policy.

Al Baradei’s National Salvation Front has repeatedly threatened to boycott the vote and demanded “guarantees” for fair elections. Demands include replacing the current Islamist-led government with a caretaker cabinet and allowing local and foreign civil society groups to monitor the polls.

Meanwhile, a Coptic Christian body Saturday called for boycotting the elections because their first round scheduled for April 27-28 falls on a religious Coptic holiday.

“The (presidential) decision has provoked Copts’ feelings and reflected disrespect for their religious celebrations,” said the Coptic Advisory Council.

Christians, who make up around 10 per cent of Egypt’s 85 million population, have repeatedly voiced concerns about marginalization after Islamists rose to power following Mubarak’s toppling.

“We call for boycotting elections, which set the scene for the win of a certain faction,” added the council in a statement.

Amani Adly, a Coptic member of the Shura Council, which is Egypt’s temporary legislator, told the independent website Al Youm Al Saba that she had been told by presidential aides that the date of the first round of the balloting will be changed from April 27-28 to April 24-25.

Mursi’s Islamist allies say the legislative polls are necessary for fast-tracking the country’s democratic transition.

Islamists held more than two thirds of seats in the previous legislature, which was dissolved by the Supreme Constitutional Court in June last year after its electoral rules were found unconstitutional.