x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Morsi calls on 'all the brothers' in Egypt for election talks

Egypt's president reaches out to opposition ahead of April vote. Bradley Hope reports from Cairo

CAIRO // The Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, yesterday asked the opposition to hold talks on parliamentary elections scheduled for April, which several opposition leaders have threatened to boycott.

"I call on all the brothers in the different parties in all of Egypt to come ... so we can sit and put in place the guarantees for the transparency and fairness of the elections," Mr Morsi said in an interview on Al-Mehwar channel.

The interview was originally scheduled for 8pm on Sunday but was eventually broadcast in the early hours of Monday after it was repeatedly delayed.

Senior members of the National Salvation Front (NSF), the umbrella opposition group, have called for a boycott of the elections unless the president sacks his government, amends the constitution and creates a more inclusive political atmosphere.

They claim that the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Mr Morsi was formerly a senior leader, is dominating the country and attempting to prevent a more representative government from being created.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a senior leader of the NSF and head of the Constitution Party, called for a boycott on Saturday.

"Called for parliamentary election boycott in 2010 to expose sham democracy. Today I repeat my call, will not be part of an act of deception," he tweeted. He was referring to parliamentary elections held in 2010 under the deposed president, Hosni Mubarak, whose National Democratic Party swept a lion's share of seats amid accusations of rigging and voter manipulation.

The NSF has not yet officially declared its position on the elections. Its supreme committee is scheduled to meet today.

At least one official, the former foreign minister, Amr Moussa, has said supported taking part in the elections.

The Salafist Al Nour Party has also said it would participate in the elections and called on other political groups to do the same.

The opposition and Mr Morsi have been in a stand-off since November, when the president issued a decree protecting his decisions from judicial oversight and later rushed through a vote on a new constitution.

He backtracked from his decree, but the constitution passed in a national referendum in December.

Clashes have erupted periodically since then, intensifying during the second anniversary of the January 25 uprising that toppled Mubarak. At least 60 people have died since November.

Mr Morsi has repeatedly convened "national dialogue" sessions, but the opposition has refused to take part unless he meets their demands.

The president announced on Friday that elections to the lower house of parliament would be held over two months from late April, with a new parliament to be formed by the beginning of July.