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Egypt

ElBaradei calls for Egypt vote boycott, poll date moved

Egypt's liberal opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei has called for a boycott of elections called by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The timing of the elections has been changed after complaints from Christians.

Former UN nuclear watchdog chief ElBaradei on Saturday rejected Morsi's call for elections, writing on his Twitter account that "boycotting this election is the fastest way to expose fake democracy and confirm our credibility."

"(I) called for (a) parliamentary election boycott in 2010 to expose the sham of democracy," the liberal opposition figure wrote. "Today, I repeat my call, (I) will not be part of an act of deception."

President Morsi had announced on Thursday that Egypt would vote for the lower house of parliament, the People's Assembly, in a four-round election beginning on April 27 and running through June 26-27.

Egypt's Supreme Court effectively dissolved the lower house of parliament in June 2012, when it struck down the laws that had governed the country's original November 2011-January 2012 vote. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafist Al-Nour party decisively won control of parliament during that annulled election.

Egypt's upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, has been exercising legislative power since the Islamist-dominated lower house was dissolved.

‘Unilateral decision’

The liberal and secular opposition quickly condemned Morsi's decision, arguing that the country's political crisis should be resolved before holding parliamentary elections.

A spokesman for the National Salvation Front (NSF), an umbrella group representing Egypt's fractured opposition, called on the government to first revise the controversial new constitution - written largely by Islamist parties - before calling for elections.

"We will meet early next week to decide on whether we will boycott or go ahead with election," NSF spokesman Khaled Dawood said. "But as you can see, the opposition overall is upset over this unilateral decision on the part of the presidency. This was rushed."

Opposition figure Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League, expressed concern on Friday that Morsi's announcement would exacerbate Egypt's already volatile political divisions.

"I expect political divisions to grow, thus fuelling the unrest," Moussa said in a release.

But Essam Erian, a member of Morsi's FJP, said a boycott by the opposition would be a mistake.

"The coming parliament will hold a variety of national voices: Islamist, conservative, liberal and leftist," Erian wrote on his Facebook page. "Everyone realizes the importance of the coming period and withholding one's vote is a big mistake."

Copts demand date change

Meanwhile on Saturday, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi changed the dates of the country's multi-round parliamentary elections after complaints about the proposed timing from the country’s Coptic community.

The Christian minority complained that the date of the first round fell during their Easter celebrations. According to state television, Morsi issued a decree to hold the first stage of the polls on April 22 to 23, instead of April 27 to 28. "This comes in a swift response from President Mohammed Morsi to the demands of the Christian brothers," Morsi's office said.

The Coptic Christian group AlKalema had criticized the president for scheduling elections during Easter celebrations, calling it “total negligence.” Copts make up around 10 percent of Egypt's population.

slk, rc/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)