Last updated: 23 February, 2013

Egypt’s ElBaradei calls for election boycott

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei on Saturday called for a boycott of Egypt’s upcoming legislative elections, as the president rescheduled the first round after Copts complained it would clash with a Christian holiday.

“Called for parliamentary election boycott in 2010 to expose sham democracy. Today I repeat my call, will not be part of an act of deception,” the Nobel Peace laureate and former head of the UN atomic watchdog wrote on Twitter.

Former foreign minister Amr Mussa, another leader in the National Salvation Front (NSF), said many members of the opposition bloc were inclined to boycott the four-round election, but a final position had not yet been taken.

“There is a large group that wants a boycott, but it has not yet been discussed, and no decision has been taken,” he told AFP.

Initially the election had been set to begin on April 27, with a new parliament to convene on July 6.

But the dates conflicted with pre-Easter and Easter holidays, prompting Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to announce new ones “in response to requests by Christian brothers,” a reference to the Coptic Church, his office said Saturday.

A statement said the new starting date for the election would be April 22-23 instead of 27-28 which fell on the Christian holidays of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday.

The second round will take place on April 29-30 instead of May 4-5, to avoid interference with Easter weekend, the statement said, adding that as a result of the changes parliament was now set to convene on July 2, instead of July 6.

Earlier Father Rafiq Greish, the Catholic Church’s spokesman in Egypt, told AFP that he spoke with the presidency, which “accepted” rescheduling the first round.

Many Copts fear that Morsi and his Islamist allies seek to marginalise the minority community which represents six to 10 percent of Egypt’s 83-million population of mostly Sunni Muslims.

ElBaradei, who did not elaborate about his boycott call on Twitter, raised suspicion that the vote might be rigged, as was the case in a 2010 election under ousted long-time president Hosni Mubarak.

Leaders of the NSF, an alliance that brings together liberal and secular leaning groups, have previously proposed a postponement of the vote.

The coalition organised massive protests against Morsi in November and December after he adopted now-repealed powers that shielded his decisions from judicial review.

But anti-Morsi protests have slowed since he pushed through an Islamist-drafted constitution in a December referendum, with the mass rallies giving way to smaller, and often violent, protests.

The opposition, less organised than Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, has insisted the president appoint a new government before the election while the presidency says the new parliament should have the right to appoint the cabinet.

The Brotherhood and Islamist allies dominated the last parliamentary election in 2011 that resulted in an Islamist-majority house which a court annulled on a technicality before Morsi’s election last June.

But due to increased anti-Morsi sentiment, Hamdeen Sabahi, another NSF leader, has said the opposition coalition could now win up to 50 percent of seats in parliament if it chose to contest the election.