Egypt opposition says polls to deepen political unrest

Egypt opposition says polls to deepen political unrest

Egyptian opposition leaders Friday criticized a decision by President Mohammed Morsi to hold parliamentary elections in April, warning that the polls will deepen political divisions in the country, dpa reported.

"The attempt to hold elections despite tensions in society, the weakness of the state institutions and before reaching a national consensus is irresponsible. It will inflame the situation," wrote Mohammed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition leader, in a tweet.

Morsi Thursday called for the election of a lower house of parliament in four rounds with the first starting on April 27 in five of the country's 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 maiden session of the new legislature will be convened on July 6.

The call for the polls comes amid a deep political dispute between the Islamist president and the mostly secular opposition.

The opposition accuses Morsi of tightening his Muslim Brotherhood group's hold on power and failing to revitalize the ailing economy.

Islamists charge that the opposition seeks to oust Morsi, who is Egypt's first democratically elected president.

Amr Moussa, an opposition leader, criticized Morsi for setting the date of the vote without consulting with opposition powers.

"I expect political divisions to grow, thus fueling the unrest," Moussa said in a statement.

The opposition has repeatedly threatened to boycott the forthcoming 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 organizations.

The United States called on Egyptian authorities to conduct the elections in a "transparent, free and fair manner" and to allow domestic and international election monitors.

"The Egyptian people have every right to expect that the highest international standards will be met in the way these elections are conducted and to be assured that their government is going to ensure a safe and secure environment for them," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington.

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

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

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