Egyptian President Morsi announces parliamentary elections to begin April
By Marwa Awad and Yasmine Saleh ,ReutersCAIRO -- President Mohammed Morsi on Thursday called parliamentary elections that will begin on April 27 and finish in late June, a four-stage vote that the Islamist leader hopes will conclude Egypt's turbulent transition to democracy.
February 23, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The vote will take place in a country deeply divided between Islamist parties that have come out on top in all elections held since Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 and more secular-minded opposition parties that have struggled to get organized.
The Islamist-led administration hopes the election of the new parliament will help stabilise Egypt so an economy in deep crisis can start to recover from spasms of unrest and violence that have dogged the transition.
The new parliament will convene on July 6, according to a decree issued by Morsi. The Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, earlier adopted an electoral law that cleared the way for Morsi to set the date for the lower house election.
Under the new Egyptian constitution adopted in December, Morsi must secure parliament's approval for his choice of prime minister, giving the chamber more power than it had under Mubarak, when it was no more than a rubber stamp.
With Egypt so polarized, the stakes are high for the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The party has said it will seek an outright majority in the vote, an outcome that would allow Morsi administration to press ahead with its plans for a country caught in political limbo despite the Islamist victory in last year's presidential vote.
Opposition groups have accused Morsi and the Brotherhood of seeking to dominate the post-Mubarak order, accusations denied by the Islamists but which have fuelled protests against his rule.
The opposition must now decide whether to take part in the vote and try to gain a foothold in Egypt's elected institutions or boycott in an attempt to deny legitimacy to the process, analysts said.
“This confronts them with a real dilemma,” said Nathan Brown, professor of political science at George Washington University and an Egypt expert.
“If you have a majority that is very sympathetic to the president, then the president can do an awful lot,” said Brown. “If you have a parliament that is fractured, you could have a system of infighting and even gridlock.”