Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi has brought forward the start of parliamentary elections to April 22, in an effort to defuse a row with Egypt’s Christian minority, who said the schedule would conflict with their Easter celebrations.
The decision by Mursi to start the four-stage vote five days earlier than scheduled was announced by his spokesman on Facebook.
According to a presidential decree, the parliamentary elections, previously scheduled for April 27 will now be brought forward to April 22.The elections will take place in four stages and last for three months.
The adjustment in dates should satisfy Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of the population. But the rift between Egypt’s ruling Islamists and the opposition remained as deep as ever, with one leading liberal politician, Mohamed ElBaradei, saying he would boycott the polls.
ElBaradei, a former U.N. nuclear agency chief, drew comparisons with the last parliamentary polls to be held under Mubarak in 2010, a vote which was widely seen as rigged.
ElBaradei noted he had called for a boycott in 2010 “to expose sham democracy”.
“Today I repeat my call, (I) will not be part of an act of deception,” he said on his Twitter account. ElBaradei boycotted the presidential election that brought Mursi to power last June.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Mursi, rejected any call to boycott the voting which has been scheduled in four stages from April 27 to June. Essam Erian, a senior member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said the polls would be carried out under “complete judicial supervision” as well as being followed by Egyptian, regional and international media.
Voting would be monitored by Egyptian and foreign civil society and human rights organizations, he said on his Facebook page, adding that he expected wide participation.
In other news, Opponents of Mursi are voting to send him into outer space.
The Islamist president on Saturday was leading the field in Egypt in an online contest sponsored by deodorant makers Axe to send a lucky few on a shuttle operated by space tourism company Space Expedition Corp.
Egypt’s opposition movement April 6 entered Mursi into the competition.
“With God’s help, and under His care, Mursi will soon be launched to the moon,” the group said on its Facebook page, along with a picture of the president in a spacesuit.
The presidency has not responded to the campaign on behalf of the former engineer and self-professed “Planet of the Apes” fan.
But his opponents have enthusiastically embraced the possibility. “I just voted for Mursi to go to space. Proudest moment in voting history,” one of them wrote on Twitter.
Since Mursi’s election win as Egypt’s first civilian and Islamist president last summer, his popularity has eroded.
Thousands took to the streets in December when he issued power-grabbing decrees temporarily that allowed his supporters to rush a draft constitution to a nationwide vote before a high court packed with Mubarak appointees could disband the process.
It passed with 64 percent amid low turnout and a boycott by thousands of overseeing judges.