Morsi Changes Election Date After Coptic Christian Uproar; Opposition Warns Against Hasty Vote

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Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi, photographed during his visit to Tehran on Aug. 1.

Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi announced new dates for the parliamentary elections Sunday to avoid conflict with the Coptic Christian celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter, April 28 and May 5 respectively, while inviting political forces for a dialogue to ensure the "integrity and transparency" of the elections.

The announcement last week that the elections would begin late April and continue early May angered Coptic Christian minorities since the dates overlapped with their holidays posing difficulties for them to cast their votes. The first round of voting in Cairo, Behaira, Minya, Port Said and Northern Sinai will be held April 22-23, five days ahead of the previous schedule, state-run MENA news agency reported.

Since Egyptians voted in December in favor of a controversial new constitution, the nation’s political timetable requires that the election process begins within two months.

The second stage will be held May 11-12 in Giza, Alexandria, Sohaj, Bani Swaif, Aswan, Suez, Red Sea and New Valley. The runoff will be held May 19-20 in those areas, the agency said.

The third stage will be held May 28-29 in Daqahliya, Qalyubia, Monufia, Qena, Damietta, Luxor, Matrouh and South Sinai. The runoff will be held June 5-6.

The fourth stage will be held June 15-16 in Sharqia, Gharbia, Assiut, Kafr el-Sheikh, Fayoum and Ismailia. The runoff will be held June 23-24.

In a televised interview Sunday, Morsi also rejected opposition charges that the elections were the "recipe for disaster” given the chaotic political atmosphere of the country.

"I see that the climate is very agreeable for an election," he said, according to an Associated Press report.

The Islamist president’s decree calling for elections was sharply criticized by the liberal opposition with the key opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei warning that the “completely polarized” circumstances risked setting the country on a "road to total chaos and instability.”

"We need to send a message loud and clear to the people here and outside of Egypt that this is not a democracy, that we have not participated in an uprising two years ago to end up with a recycling of the [Hosni] Mubarak regime,” ElBaradei, a National Salvation Front (NSF) coalition leader told BBC Sunday.

"Torture is still there, abduction is still there, a lack of social justice is still there,” he said.

ElBaradei said the underlying problem was that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had spent 80 years in opposition, and was now “intoxicated with power.”

On Saturday, ElBaradei called for a boycott of the vote, which could adversely affect the election's legitimacy.

Morsi's supporters say that delaying elections, protesting and boycotting are affecting Egypt's ability to lure foreign investors and tourists again to revive the worsening economy.

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