CAIRO — Egypt's president set parliamentary elections to begin in April — a decision that an opposition leader denounced Friday as "a recipe for disaster" because of the ongoing political turmoil in the country.
About 15,000 people took to the streets in the Suez Canal city of Port Said to demonstrate against President Mohammed Morsi, hanging effigies of him in the main square. Residents have been on a general strike for six days, demanding punishment for what they considered a heavy-handed police crackdown during unrest in the city.
Morsi scheduled the staggered, four-stage voting process to begin April 27 and end in June. The newly elected parliament would convene on July 6, according to a decree issued late Thursday night.
He hopes the election will end the political turmoil that has beset Egypt for the past two years, since the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. The upheaval has scared away foreign investors and dried up tourism, both crucial foreign currency earners that helped the government pay for subsidized goods needed by the poor for survival.
But Mohamed ElBaradei, who leads one of the main opposition groups, the National Salvation Front, wrote on his Twitter account Friday that Morsi's "decision to go for parliamentary elections amidst severe societal polarization and eroding state authority is a recipe for disaster."
The NSF accuses Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters of monopolizing power and reneging on campaign promises to set up an inclusive government that introduces far-reaching reforms.
The opposition has called for amending articles in a new constitution that passed in a nationwide referendum. It also demands the resignation of the current technocrat Cabinet appointed by Morsi that includes eight Brotherhood ministers and other Islamists.
Morsi took over as president in June 2012 with the help of some opposition groups and Islamists who voted against his rival, a former Mubarak-era prime minister. Morsi's popularity has since eroded due to power-grabbing decrees temporarily issued last year that allowed his supporters to rush the constitution to a nationwide vote before a high court packed with Mubarak appointees could disband the process.
Voting since 2011 uprising
A list of when Egyptians have gone to the polls to vote since the 2011 uprising that ousted former autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.
March 19, 2011: Egyptians cast their first free vote on constitutional amendments sponsored by the ruling military, which set a timeline for the country's transition to democracy. The military and Muslim Brotherhood rallied for a "yes" vote that passed easily against the largely secular and liberal opposition's "no" vote that would have paved the way for the constitution to be written sooner.
Nov. 28, 2011: Voting begins in Egypt's first parliamentary elections since Mubarak's ouster. It concludes in January with nearly half the seats won by the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood and a surprising win of a quarter of seats to the ultraconservative Salafi party.
Jan. 29, 2012: Multi-stage voting begins for Egypt's upper house of parliament, known as the Shura Council. A largely advisory body, the elections see a low voter turnout. Voting ends in late February with the Brotherhood winning nearly 60 percent of elected seats.
April 20, 2012: The presidential campaign officially begins.
May 23-24, 2012: A first round of nationwide voting on about a dozen candidates determines that the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Morsi and former Air Force general Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, will face each other in a runoff.
June 14, 2012: The Supreme Constitutional Court rules to dissolve the lower house of parliament on grounds that a third of the chamber's members were elected illegally. The military swiftly closes down parliament. The upper chamber, which was also elected under the law the constitutional court ruled as illegal, is not dissolved, but is separately under review.
June 16-17, 2012: Egyptians vote in the runoff between Morsi and Shafiq. The military generals issue a "constitutional declaration" giving them sweeping authority to maintain their grip on power and limit the powers of the president.
June 24, 2012: Election officials declare Morsi the winner of Egypt's first free election, with 51.7 percent of the vote.
Aug. 12, 2012: Morsi cancels the generals' declaration that gave them lawmaking powers in the absence of parliament. He retires the head of the military council and the army's chief of staff after unidentified militants attack soldiers in North Sinai, killing 16.
Dec. 1, 2012: Morsi defies massive street protests against temporary power-grabbing decrees that gave the Islamist-led panel writing the constitution and the upper house of parliament immunity from judicial oversight just days ahead of a court decision that could have dissolved the bodies. Instead, he sets the referendum dates for the disputed charter for Dec. 15. and Dec. 22.
Dec. 15, 2012: Voters cast ballots in the first leg of the constitutional referendum, despite a boycott by thousands of judges protesting Morsi's decree. Unofficial results show that a majority voted "yes" for the draft constitution.
Dec. 22, 2012: Seventeen remaining provinces cast their ballots in the second round. The final tally shows the constitution was approved by nearly 64 percent of voters. But the opposition says just under a third of eligible voters took part in the referendum and many overseeing judges boycotted the vote, undermining charter's legitimacy.
Feb. 22, 2013: Egypt's president called for multi-stage parliamentary elections beginning in April.