Egypt opposition: Election will add to tensions
In Cairo, the opposition party led by former Mubarak rival Ayman Nour said its offices were torched and stormed by masked gunmen Friday. Speaking to the state-run Ahram Arabic website, the group said the men stole documents and videotapes before setting it ablaze.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party was undeterred by criticism of Morsi’s election announcement. The party’s deputy, Essam el-Erian, was quoted on the group’s Facebook page as saying that he hopes the upcoming parliament will be ‘‘diverse’’ and include Islamists, liberals and leftists. He also warned against a boycott.
‘‘Everyone understands the importance of this stage and that the absence of their voice is a big mistake and will mean a lengthy absence from parliament, its parties and its politics during this stage of building Egypt,’’ he said.
The group has already been setting the stage for elections through outreach programs, including helping the poor receive subsidized bread that is often hard to find.
The Brotherhood and more conservative Salafis have grassroots support, partly through vast networks of charities that help the poor.
Competition among the various Islamist parties is expected to be fierce, particularly after signs of a rift between the Salafi Al-Nour and the Brotherhood began surfacing in recent weeks, including a public spat over credit for who organized a reconciliation meeting with liberal opposition figures.
The opposition says it does not want a repeat of the voting scenario in 2011, when parliamentary elections began as protesters were battling security forces to demand a timetable for presidential balloting and the end of military rule. More than 40 people were killed in those clashes, and many independent and liberal candidates withdrew from the race in protest.
The Brotherhood won nearly half the seats in what was the nation’s first free election. The more conservative Salafis came in second, while secular and liberal groups trailed significantly. That parliament was disbanded on June 14, 2012, after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that a third of the chamber’s members were elected illegally.
El-Erian said he expects Islamists to again win about 75 percent of the seats.
The staggered election will likely result in ballot fatigue for Egyptian voters who have already stood in line multiple times in the past two years for legislative and presidential elections that included runoffs, as well as two nationwide referendums.
According to Thursday’s decree, Egypt’s 27 provinces will be divided into four groups that will vote separately over two days in a period ending on June 27. This process is supposed to give the more than 50 million voters enough time to participate.
The first phase of the election takes place amid Palm Sunday and Easter for Egypt’s minority Coptic Christians who tend to travel during the holidays and have consistently voted against the Muslim Brotherhood.
In addition, the country’s highest court ruled this week that at least 10 articles in the election law were unconstitutional, and sent them to the upper house of parliament for amendment, including what it called the ‘‘arbitrary’’ drawing of districts that critics say favored the Brotherhood.
The founder of the opposition April 6 movement said if the election law is not agreed upon, they will not support participation in elections.
‘‘The election laws have not been agreed upon and this is an essential problem,’’ Ahmed Maher told the AP.
The unrest has swept over other provinces too, with diesel shortages in Alexandria and Assiut, as well as strikes in Mahalla.
Port Said protester Mohammed Manae signaled that a parliamentary election could mean more violence.
‘‘We not only object to these elections, we will not let them happen,’’ Manae said.
El Deeb reported from Port Said, Egypt. Mosaad el-Gohary in Port Said contributed to this story.