Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Thursday called parliamentary elections that are to begin on April 27 and finish in late June, a four-stage vote that the Islamist leader hopes will conclude Egypt’s turbulent transition to democracy.
The vote will take place in a country deeply divided between Islamist parties that have come out on top in all elections held since former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 and more secular-minded opposition parties that have struggled to get organized.
The Islamist-led administration hopes the election of the new parliament will help stabilize Egypt, so an economy in deep crisis can start to recover from spasms of unrest and violence that have dogged the transition.
The new parliament is to convene on July 6, according to a decree issued by Morsi. The Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, earlier adopted an electoral law that cleared the way for Morsi to set the date for the lower house election.
Under the new Egyptian constitution adopted in December last year, Mursi must secure parliament’s approval for his choice of prime minister, giving the chamber more power than it had under Mubarak, when it was no more than a rubber stamp.
With Egypt so polarized, the stakes are high for the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The party has said it will seek an outright majority in the vote, an outcome that would allow the Morsi administration to press ahead with its plans for a country caught in political limbo despite the Islamist victory in last year’s presidential vote.
Opposition groups have accused Morsi and the Brotherhood of seeking to dominate the post-Mubarak order, accusations denied by the Islamists, but which have fuelled protests against his rule.
Meanwhile, an opposition group is using a novel way to protest against Morsi: Sign him up for a chance to win a trip to space.
The April 6 Youth Movement said on its official Facebook page on Thursday that it had entered the Islamist leader’s name in the online contest because it wanted to be rid of him. It called on supporters to vote for the president so he would have a chance to win the trip into space.
“For sure, no one in the universe can put up with blatant lies, reneging on promises except for the brotherly people of the moon,” the group wrote in its post. “It is for this reason that the president needs your votes. President Morsi, we wish you safe travels.”
April 6 was a driving force behind the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak’s regime. Many of its supporters backed Morsi in last year’s election he narrowly won to become Egypt’s first freely elected president.
However, the group became among the fiercest critics of the president and his Muslim Brotherhood.