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Postponement of Egypt's elections may deepen turmoil

Warning by Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi that elections will not be held until October is bound to deepen the stalement between the Islamist leader and his opponents. Bradley Hope reports from Cairo

Adding to the signs of a protracted stand-off, a court has ruled that Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, the prosecutor general that Mr Morsi unilaterally fired in a controversial move last November, should be reinstated.
Adding to the signs of a protracted stand-off, a court has ruled that Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, the prosecutor general that Mr Morsi unilaterally fired in a controversial move last November, should be reinstated.

CAIRO // President Mohammed Morsi warned yesterday that elections for a new Egyptian parliament will not be held until October, an announcement bound to deepen the stalemate between the Islamist leader and his opponents and compound the country's political turmoil in the months ahead.

Adding to the signs of a protracted stand-off yesterday, a court ruled that Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, the prosecutor general that Mr Morsi unilaterally fired in a controversial move last November, should be reinstated.

Mr Morsi said at the time that he replaced Mr Mahmoud, a Mubarak-era appointee, because of poor performance in prosecuting members of the former regime of Hosni Mubarak for corruption and crimes against the Egyptian people.

The ruling added more uncertainty to the turgid legal situation in Egypt and had the potential to reopen a rift between the judiciary, which has opposed Mr Morsi's attempts to interfere in court business, and the executive branch, which has accused unknown elements in the courts of being complicit in an attempt to overthrow the country's first democratically elected president.

Mr Morsi had called for Egypt's two-month parliamentary election process to start in April. But a court overturned his decision after finding that the Supreme Constitutional Court had not been consulted on the final draft of the election law. The constitution empowers the president to order elections, but he cannot do so unless an election law is in place.

A new election law, approved Tuesday by the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, must be reviewed by Egypt's high court.

In a meeting yesterday with members of the Egyptian community in Qatar, where he was attending the Arab League summit, Mr Morsi confirmed that the review will cause a hold-up in the balloting, saying he "expected parliamentary elections would be held in October and that parliament would be in session before the year's end", according to the state news agency MENA.

The announcement of a postponement of elections comes at a politically volatile time in Egypt, as tensions deepen between Mr Morsi's supporters and a broad opposition movement that wants him out of power. There have been regular protests against his government since November, many of them violent.

Mr Morsi and his supporters have insisted that holding new parliamentary elections would help restore stability in Egypt, which has been racked by political battles since former president Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in February 2011.

But the umbrella opposition group, the National Salvation Front, has said the only way it will take part in elections is if Mr Morsi sacks his government and ceases what they describe as a campaign to install fellow members of the Muslim Brotherhood in critical positions across the state.

On Sunday, Mr Morsi said he suspected foreign powers and members of the old Mubarak regime were interfering with Egypt's political transition to prevent the country from becoming a strong democratic state.

"Whoever sticks his finger inside Egypt, I will cut it off," he said during a speech at a conference about women's rights, according to the Egypt Independent newspaper. "For six months, they have wanted to scare people, and threaten them with bankruptcy and starvation, and nothing has happened. Egypt has not and will not go bankrupt or fall."

"Mr Morsi has urged his opponents and critics to stop protesting and join in a national rebuilding campaign. But the Front has refused to budge unless he grants wide-ranging political concessions.

The political standoff was on display over the weekend, when thousands of protesters clashed with police outside the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in the Cairo neighbourhood of Mokattam. At least 100 were injured and one man was killed.

The demonstration was in response to an attack on journalists and activists last week, but the chants against the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide made clear that they were part of a broader sentiment that the Islamist group was attempting to monopolise power rather than make strides to improve daily life in Egypt and seek justice for the crimes of the old regime.

bhope@thenational.ae

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