CAIRO – Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s call for parliamentary elections starting in April will worsen the country’s political crisis, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said, as Islamist groups backed the plan.
The president issued a decree late Thursday to hold a four-stage election starting April 27 and ending in late June, with the new assembly to meet July 6. Morsi, 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 Friday.
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. Morsi, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, has resisted opposition calls for a national unity government.
Two years after the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, unrest has kept tourists and investors away and left the economy growing at the slowest pace in two decades. Egypt is in “crisis” and can’t recover without a much-delayed $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan accord, Planning and Investment Minister Ashraf El-Arabi said Thursday.
Islamist groups backed Morsi’s election decision. Essam El- Erian, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, predicted that Islamists who took more than 70 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary ballot will win again this time.
The parliament that emerged from that election, which started in November 2011 and spread over five weeks, was dissolved by Egypt’s top court in June last year, the same month Morsi was elected.
The Salafi Nour Party, which has clashed with Morsi recently after he dismissed one of its members as an adviser, also expressed support. Elections “can be a way out of the current political crisis” and participation is a “national duty,” spokesman Nader Bakkar said by phone Friday. Nour finished second last time behind the Brotherhood’s party.
Various groups are in talks to form a “strong Islamist electoral coalition,” Nasr Abdel Salam, head of the ultra- conservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya’s political party, said by phone Friday.
Morsi’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. Protests against his rule have frequently led to outbreaks of violence, with more than 50 people killed in clashes this year.
In Cairo and Port Said, protesters gathered for anti-government rallies Friday, urging the dismissal of the Morsi-appointed prosecutor-general and the release of political activists.