CAIRO – Islamist groups have rejected calls for boycotting Egypt’s parliamentary elections, predicting that the vote would be a recipe for cruising the heavyweight Arab country out of political turmoil.
"Elections are the only way out of the crisis,” Tarek al-Zumor of the Building and Development Party, the political arm of Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya, told Reuters.
“The people must be able to choose those they see fit.
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“The majority of political forces will not boycott the elections," he said.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has invited voters to elect a new parliament starting from April.
But the four-stage vote call has swiftly drawn opposition accusations against the Islamist president of deepening divisions in the country.
Liberal opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said holding polls without reaching a national consensus would further "inflame the situation".
"The insistence on polarization, exclusion and oppression along with ... the deteriorating economic and security situation will lead us to the abyss," ElBaradei, a former nuclear chief, wrote on Twitter.
ElBaradei, who is a leading figure in the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF), which groups a number of parties opposed to Morsi, called for boycotting the ballot.
"(I) called for parliamentary election boycott in 2010 to expose sham democracy. Today I repeat my call, will not be part of an act of deception.”
The NSF said it would hammer out its stand on the elections.
"We will meet early next week to decide on whether we will boycott or go ahead with elections,” spokesman Khaled Dawood said.
“But as you can see, the opposition overall is upset over this unilateral decision on part of the presidency. This was a rushed decision.”
He argued that Egypt should have other priorities such as changing the new constitution produced last year by an assembly dominated by Islamists.
"Solve these issues first then talk about elections," added Dawood.
Political turmoil has engulfed Egypt in recent months over the drafting of a constitution fast-tracked by Islamists.
Since then, violent protests rocked several Egyptian cities, which left scores of people dead.
But Islamists dismissed the boycott calls, arguing that the elections would lead Egypt to stability.
"The coming parliament will hold a variety of national voices: Islamist, conservative, liberal and leftist,” Essam El-Erian, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, wrote on his Facebook account.
“Everyone realizes the importance of the coming period and withholding one's vote is a big mistake.”
He argued that participation in the vote is the best way to test the popularity of political powers among Egyptians.
"Participation [in the upcoming elections] is the best choice for any politician who has any popular support,” he wrote.
“Because if he or she has a popular majority then this will be reflected in majority wins or seats won that can translate into participation in the executive branch or remaining in Parliament as an opposition force.”
Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, dominated the old lower house, which was dissolved last year by court order.
Islamists are likely to form coalitions and dominate the new parliament as they did in the previous short-lived lower house.The new parliament will face tough decisions as Egypt is seeking an IMF loan deal which would ease its financial crisis but demand unpopular austerity.
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