CAIRO // A group of Egyptian political parties met again yesterday to consider whether to ramp up opposition to election rules put forward by the military and demand a faster transition to civilian rule.
The mechanics of Egypt's new elections have been a major point of contention for many parties, from the Freedom and Justice Party set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to the Tagammu party.
At issue is the slowness of elections, which will see a full parliament elected by March and no set date for a presidential election, and the possibility of former members of the regime of Hosni Mubarak running as independents.
After releasing guidelines for the elections earlier this month, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) was hit by political parties with a deadline to make changes or face a boycott of the elections by some parties starting today. Thousands of people took to Tahrir Square on Friday to "reclaim the revolution", with many voicing uncertainty about the true intentions of the military government about handing control back to civilians.
Scaf reportedly offered yesterday to put greater restrictions on former members of the Mubarak regime from running in the elections, but it was unclear if all the parties would accept the changes.
On Saturday, Scaf laid out a more detailed timeline for the elections, which will begin on November 28 for the lower house, or People's Assembly, and in January for the upper house, or Shura Council. The full parliament would then convene in April to establish a special assembly that would draft a new constitution. After that, a presidential election would be held.
The writing of the constitution is expected to be a contentious process, with Islamists and secular groups already clashing over religious issues.
Mohammed Morsy, the head of the Freedom and Justice Party, said in a statement yesterday that the Saturday meeting had produced a deal among parties to agree in advance on some of the principles of the constitution.
"The meeting ended the debate over supra-constitutional principles and they will be announced once we agree on them," he said, according to the statement.
With preparations for elections gaining pace, the US has also reportedly made overtures to Egypt's most organised political force, the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Reuters, quoting a US diplomat. "We have had direct contacts with senior officials of the Freedom and Justice party," the diplomat said. A US embassy spokesperson said last night: "We believe it's important to have dialogue with all elements of Egyptian society that are nonviolent and committed to democracy."
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said during an interview broadcast on Egypt's Al-Hayat television channel on Saturday that the US government is "willing to and open to working with a government that has representatives of the [Muslim] Brotherhood".
Analysts have predicted that the Freedom and Justice Party could take anywhere from 15 to 40 per cent of the seats in the parliament.
* With additional reporting from Reuters