Sisi says parliamentary elections to be held before March 2015

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Egypt's parliamentary elections will be held before the end of March 2015, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told a visiting US business delegation on Monday, his office said.

Electing a new parliament is a key step in a roadmap announced by the army after it ousted Islamist Mohammed Mursi, Egypt's former president, on July 3, 2013.

"Egypt will achieve its third milestone announced in the post-July 3 roadmap... of holding its parliamentary elections before an international economic conference scheduled in the first quarter of 2015," Sisi was quoted as telling the US business delegation which is visiting Egypt to discuss investments in the country.

The planned economic conference aims to attract foreign investments to kick-start the country's battered economy.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and members of the Egyptian-American Business Council were also present during the meeting.

The nearly 160-member delegation is thought to be the biggest such US business group to visit Egypt since the 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak

Sisi, then army chief, ousted Mursi and announced a political roadmap that envisaged adopting a new constitution, to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections.

While the new constitution was adopted in January 2014, the presidential election, which Sisi won, was held in May.

The Supreme Electoral Commission announced in June the start of preparatory procedures for holding the parliamentary polls.

The commission recently said the date for the parliamentary polls will be fixed after a law finalizing the constituencies was issued.

Sisi told the delegation that Egypt's current fight against terrorism, especially in the Sinai Peninsula, would not only serve the country's best interests, but would also serve to bolster stability in the entire Middle East region.

A joint police-army force has been cracking down on militants said to be based in Sinai for more than one year.

The crackdown was given fresh impetus on October 24 when 33 Egyptian troops were killed and 30 others injured in an attack on a military installation in the peninsula.

Egyptian authorities used the attack as a pretext to begin evacuating the border zone between Sinai and the blockaded Gaza Strip, which is linked to Sinai through a network of underground tunnels.

Following the attack, Sisi also approved of a military decree, similar to Mubarak’s martial law, to expand military power under the title of “ensuring stability.”

The military decree is one of the many moves to clamp down on dissent by a government that has jailed thousands of political opponents, curbed protests, and forced NGOs to register with the government.

More than 1,400 people have been killed in the army’s crackdowns targeting mostly “unlicensed protests” of Mursi supporters, according to government statistics, and many thousands were jailed without fair trials.

Many of the leading secular activists behind the 2011 uprising have also found themselves on the wrong side of the new political leadership for speaking up against the new authority.

Moreover, sources on Monday said Egypt is drafting a law tightening restrictions on media coverage of the armed forces, alarming journalists who believe this move will sound the death knell for freedom of the press.

The draft has not been officially released, but a text that appeared in the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper last week suggests it will ban publication of "any news, information, statistics, statements or documents related to the armed forces, their formations, movements... operations or plans" without written permission from army general command.

The government has not publicly commented on the leaked draft but three sources said the law was being discussed by Egypt's Council of State, a judicial body that advises the government and drafts legislation.

(AFP, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

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