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Egypt Calls for Early Presidential Vote as Unrest Grows

CAIRO — Egypt will hold a presidential vote before parliamentary polls, President Adly Mansour said on Sunday, in a change to a political roadmap that could pave the way for the swift election of army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Parliamentary elections were supposed to be held first under the timetable drawn up after the army overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July following mass protests against his rule.

The decision to revise the order of elections is likely to deepen tensions in Egypt, which is struggling to cope with waves of political violence. Forty-nine people were killed in anti-government marches on Saturday, the third anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Violent clashes in Egypt on Jan. 25 anniv. 2:55

"I have taken my decision to amend the roadmap for the future in that we will start by holding presidential elections first followed by the parliamentary elections," interim leader Mansour said in a televised speech.

Critics have campaigned for a change of the roadmap, saying the country needs an elected leader to direct government at a time of economic and political crisis and to forge a political alliance before potentially divisive parliamentary elections.

Sisi is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency within days and win by a landslide. His supporters see him as a strong, decisive figure able to stabilize Egypt.

The Brotherhood accuses him of masterminding a coup and holds him responsible for widespread human rights abuses in a crackdown against the movement which has killed up to 1,000 Islamists and put top leaders behind bars.

While tough measures against the Brotherhood have nearly crippled it, security forces have failed to contain an Islamist insurgency. Militant attacks have raised fears for the stability of Egypt, of great strategic importance because of its peace treaty with Israel and control over the Suez Canal.

A new constitution voted in earlier this month cleared the way for a change in the order of the elections by leaving open the question of which should come first.

Mansour did not announce a date for the presidential vote.

—Reuters