Egypt Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
MADRID - Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said on Friday Egypt would hold parliamentary elections between February and March, followed by presidential polls in early summer, and that the political arm of ousted President Mohamed Morsi's banned Muslim Brotherhood could take part.
Fahmy's comments provided the most specific timeline yet for the end of the interim army-backed government and a return to electoral politics in the Arab world's most populous country, which since Morsi's ouster on July 3 has seen some of the worst violence in its modern history.
Fahmy told Reuters in an interview that the Freedom and Justice Party, political arm of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, "is still legal in Egypt" and free to participate in the parliamentary election.
The Brotherhood failed in an attempt on Wednesday to overturn a court ruling banning it. Morsi himself is on trial on charges of inciting violence
during his rule.
Speaking during a visit to Spain, he said presidential elections would be announced "by the end of next spring" and that the elections would be held "a maximum of two months after the announcement."
"So you're looking at elections in the summer for president, that's the last step," he said.
He had said in September that the transitional phase of government should end "by next spring," though he did not give specific dates at that time.
The elections will come after a referendum on a new constitution, which Fahmy said would be held in December. A 50-member committee is working on amending a constitution that was drafted under Morsi by an Islamist-dominated assembly.
Since July, the army-backed government has carried out a security crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. Its leaders are behind bars, as are more than 2,000 of its members and supporters. Hundreds of Islamists have been killed since the army takeover.TENSION OVER AID
The United States has questioned the democratic credentials of Egypt's army-backed rulers.
Last month, Washington curtailed military aid to Egypt, which has long been the second-largest recipient of US aid after Israel and a key regional ally.
US officials said the aid cut reflected Washington's unhappiness with Egypt's path since Morsi was deposed.
Fahmy has since called the state of Washington's ties with its longtime Arab ally "turbulent" and suggested that Egypt would look beyond the United States to meet its security needs, and has repeatedly named Russia as a partner with whom Cairo hopes to deepen ties.
"I sense a desire and see an interest in expanding military cooperation with Russia," he said. "That does not mean that we will not expand military cooperation with the US at the same time," he added, a step down from his recent sharp critiques of Washington.
"We have moved forward more than people think," he said, referring to the transitional period. He acknowledged, however, that the government is grappling with turmoil.
"We need to get a full hand on the security issues in Egypt but that is progressing, so we can receive tourists again," he said.
The summer of bloodshed following Morsi's ouster frightened away all but the bravest foreign visitors, a heavy blow to an industry that has suffered greatly from nearly three years of upheaval following the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat president Hosni Mubarak.