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Morsi calls for parly elections in April

22 February 2013, 14:58

Cairo - Egypt's parliamentary elections will be held in four rounds, with the first to start on April 27, according to a decree issued on Thursday night by President Mohammed Morsi.

The first stage will be held for two days in five of the country's 27 provinces, including Cairo.

The fourth and final round will be held on June 19-20, with a possible run-off vote due on June 26-27.

The decree said the maiden session of the new legislature, to be called the Council of Deputies, would be held on July 6.

"The elections will be held in phases to ensure they are fully supervised by the judges in line with the constitution," Bakinam al-Sharqawi, an aide to Morsi, told state television.

Egypt has been without a lower house of parliament since a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court in June last year voided the chamber after deeming the electoral rules unconstitutional.

The Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, temporarily holds legislative authority until the legislature is elected.

The Council Thursday approved a revised electoral law, three days after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that five articles in the law, drafted by the Islamist-led chamber, were unconstitutional.

The revisions bring the law into line with the court's remarks and raises to 546 the number of seats in the legislature in order to help ensure fair representation of electoral districts across the country, reported state media. The previous legislature was made up of 498 elected members.

Neutral government

The new seats mostly go to greater Cairo and Alexandria. Opponents of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood had charged that the initial districting favoured rural areas, especially in poorer southern Egypt, which are dominated by Islamists.

But there were warnings that by sending the revised law straight to the president and not back to the Constitutional Court the Shura Council risked a ruling against the next parliament similar to the one that struck down the previous assembly.

Cairo University politics professor Hassan Nafaa, writing in independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm's Friday edition, which hit the news stands before Morsi signed off on the law, said that unless the court was given another opportunity to review the revised draft it could be struck down at a later stage.

Shura Council speaker Ahmed Fahmy said that the Council had complied with all the court's rulings, but during the session government representatives objected to the Council's interpretation of the court's decision on candidates who had been exempted from military service.

The mostly secular opposition has threatened to boycott the polls unless the Islamist-backed government is replaced with a "neutral" government and the elections are wholly overseen by the judiciary and monitored by non-governmental organisations.



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