Egypt premier prefers delay of parliamentary vote

By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 19 2011 5:40 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this March 19, 2011 file photo, Egypt's then new Prime Minister designate Essam Sharaf speaks to an electoral observer as he casts his vote in a polling station in Cairo, Egypt during a referendum on constitutional amendments. Egypt's prime minister Essam Sharaf said in an interview posted Sunday, June 19, 2011 on the Egyptian news website Masrawy.com that he prefers to put off parliamentary elections scheduled for September until a new constitution is drafted.

Khalil Hamra, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CAIRO — Egypt's prime minister has added his weight to calls for a delay of September's parliamentary elections to allow more time for nascent political parties to organize in the aftermath of President Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

In an interview posted Sunday on Egyptian news website Masrawy.com, Essam Sharaf said the delay would allow the nation's "political landscape" time to take shape.

Sharaf made clear that a delay is his personal preference, and that his interim government would do everything it can to ensure a fair and secure vote if the election went ahead as scheduled.

But his view lends considerable weight to complaints by liberal and secularist parties that a September vote would be unfairly advantageous to the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest and best organized political group after the fall of Mubarak in February.

Sharaf also hinted that he wanted to see a delay so a new constitution could be drafted before the vote.

As things stand now, the next legislature will select a panel to draft a new constitution, and some fear a parliament dominated by Islamists could result in a document with an Islamist slant.

The question of whether the constitution or the elections should come first is one of several key issues dividing Egyptians after Mubarak's ouster. Others are related to the secrecy of the ruling military, as well as disagreements over the extent to which police powers should be curtailed and how best to halt the deterioration of the economy.

Sharaf's wish to see a delay is shared by new political groups that arose from the Jan. 25-Feb. 11 uprising that toppled Mubarak. Most of these groups have their genesis in the youth organizations behind the uprising, and while they are not opposed outright to the Muslim Brotherhood playing a role in post-Mubarak politics, they don't want to see it win a representation disproportionate to its base of support.

In a separate development, supporters of Mubarak have successfully petitioned a court to suspend the implementation of an April 21 order issued by another tribunal to remove the names of Mubarak and his wife, Suzanne, from all public facilities and institutions. The suspension order is effective until a ruling is reached on an appeal.

The latest ruling, issued Saturday, will have little effect, however, since authorities acting on the April court order have already removed the names of the Mubaraks from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of schools, streets, squares and libraries as well as a major subway station in central Cairo.

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