Egypt opposition leader calls for election boycott
Blogger and commentator Mahmoud Salem, a longtime activist who now opposes Morsi, said he disagreed with a boycott because it offers no real alternative to the political impasse.
‘‘Where’s ElBaradei’s party, its plan, its economic vision? Let’s say a boycott is the right answer. What will they do so that they can be competitive in the next election?’’ Salem said.
He accused ElBaradei of calling for a boycott in part because the opposition has been unable to win significantly at the polls.
‘‘In reality, it will end up as a parliament composed of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, or members of the ex-regime,’’ he said.
Others have said they may enter elections, but are criticizing Morsi’s timing.
Shadi Taha, a leading figure of al-Ghad al-Thawra party led by former Mubarak rival Ayman Nour, told The Associated Press that the country should be focused first on more pressing issues like the economy, education and health care.
The party has not yet decided if it will boycott.
‘‘The last thing we need is to enter a new cycle that further polarizes and splits the country,’’ Taha said. ‘‘First there should be stability. ... Elections should have been delayed to deal with bigger priorities.’’
On the second anniversary of the Jan. 25 uprising this year, anger at police impunity for abuses and an array of other social woes spilled out onto the streets and violence again engulfed the nation.
About 70 people died in a wave of protests and riots since then — more than half of them in the restive Suez Canal city of Port Said alone.
A civil disobedience campaign in Port Said entered its seventh day on Saturday. The protesters are demanding retribution for those killed during the recent unrest. There have also been near daily protests in Cairo and in the textile producing city of Mahalla.
Former lawmaker Mostafa al-Naggar, a centrist, said boycott calls will be ineffective unless there is unity among the opposition.
He wrote on Twitter that a boycott ‘‘will clear the arena for the ruling party and its allies to dominate the legislative and executive branches.’’
ElBaradei’s opposition coalition, which was only formed late last year, had warned for weeks it could boycott if certain conditions were not met first.
The NSF said it wants a real national dialogue that leads to the formation of a more inclusive government, changes to the constitution and stability.
Egypt’s new constitution, approved in late December, says that procedures for elections should begin within two months of the charter being ratified but does not set a deadline for the vote.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians complained that elections start around Palm Sunday and Easter, prompting Morsi to review the timing of the vote. Minority Christians have consistently voted against the Brotherhood.
On Saturday, Morsi changed the start of voting to April 22 instead of April 28.
Morsi’s supporters say that delaying elections, protesting and boycotting are affecting Egypt’s ability to lure foreign investors and tourists again as the economy deteriorates.
Egypt’s oldest opposition party, al-Wafd, steered clear of immediately supporting a boycott. Instead, the party said it will file a lawsuit against elections being announced before laws governing the vote are approved.
Former liberal lawmaker Amr Hamzawi , part of ElBaradei’s NSF group, told the AP that a boycott might be a good option but ElBaradei’s unilateral call may have come prematurely.
‘‘I don’t think we need to decide today. But we need to enter a process of collective reflection,’’ he said. ‘‘It takes time’’ for any opposition to translate its movement into societal change and elections victories.
Mosaad el-Gohary in Port Said contributed to this story.