Egypt might postpone elections until November

Analyst: Delayed ballot will harm Muslim Brotherhood; strong constitution key for robust democracy.

Egyptians 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptians 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt’s parliamentary election may not be held until November, two months later than originally planned, an army source said on Wednesday after some political groups called for the vote to be pushed back. The military source said the registration of candidates would start in September, which he said meant the army was sticking to its commitment to start the handover of power to civilians then.
“Procedures for a parliamentary election will begin in September, possibly the middle of the month. That will involve registration of candidates,” he told Reuters.
RELATED:'Egyptian economic ties eroding after pipeline blast' Egyptian protesters vow to stay camped in Tahrir Square
“Then there will be a campaigning period, after which an election will be held,” he said. “This could take the voting till after September, possibly November.”
Also Wednesday, Egyptian authorities said more than 650 senior officers would end their police service, an unprecedented shake-up after protesters demanded reform of a force blamed for killing protesters who ousted Hosni Mubarak. Analysts said a postponed vote would almost certainly harm the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organized group.
“This will definitely come at the expense of the Brotherhood. This has been the wish of the liberal democrats in Egypt since the first day after the fall of Mubarak,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “They’ve been pushing for a constitution that is not just an overhaul of the existing constitution, which is basically designed to perpetuate a oneparty system and socialist-style state. They want to create something that can withstand the social pressures from populism and Islamism, and at the same time allow for democratic, secular parties to ‘catch up’ to the Brotherhood.
“The Brotherhood is obviously now the best organized and most likely to win in the next election,” Schanzer said. “In the tug-of-war between the Islamists and ‘secular revolutionists,’ let’s say, the momentum continues to sway back and forth. We thought the Brotherhood would absolutely walk away with this, but there now appears to be a change in momentum,” he added. “It’s too early to tell whether this will benefit Israel at the end of the day, but in the long term, in terms of mitigating Islamism and dangerous populist sentiment, I think this would be a positive development.”
The announcement of police dismissals follows six days of protests in Cairo and other cities that have included demands for speedier change and faster trials of those behind the deaths of more than 840 demonstrators.
The Interior Ministry statement said 505 generals and more than 160 other senior officers would end their service. It was not immediately clear if they were being fired, or retiring.
Ministry spokesman General Marwan Mostafa said: “The police force shares with the people feelings of pain and hope. People involved in security are... keen to do their role in protecting the revolution and look forward to a future of democracy.”
Police were hated for the way they quashed even the smallest protest during Mubarak’s rule, and were reviled for using live ammunition, rubber bullets, batons and water cannon in the 18-day uprising that led to the president quitting on February 11.
Activists welcomed the shake-up, but said it wasn’t sufficient.
“This is a major step, but still more procedures need to be done. Officers who had a role in torturing protesters during the revolution are still in their position,” said Ahmed Maher from April Six Youth movement. “We also need to have a real restructuring process in the military,” he added.
“Having elections in November would certainly offer nascent parties more time to prepare for the election race. At least now we have more time to compete with already established groups,” said Mohamed Anis, a founding member of the new Justice Party.
Asked about the November voting date, senior Brotherhood member Essam el-Erian said: “This was expected...
We will all get to have more time before [the] actual voting.”
After a mass protest on Friday demanded swifter reforms, a core of demonstrators have remained camped out in tents and under canopies in the sweltering heat in Tahrir Square, demanding swifter reforms and criticizing the military’s rule.
In a bid to assuage public anger, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said the cabinet would be reshuffled in a week. The government has also pledged to raise the minimum wage. Sharaf said earlier in July that the election would be in late September, although in June he had said he backed a delay to allow more groups to organize.
“At the end of the day, you can’t change people’s minds about how they’re going to vote, but you can make it much more difficult for them to overtake the system by providing the checks and balances needed,” Schanzer said. “You can predict Islamist takeovers in a number of countries that have the trappings of democracy, but have poor constitutions.
“One would have thought, 10 years ago, that Turkey had a strong constitution, but it didn’t. Now you see the stranglehold the AKP [ruling party] has on Turkey. The world can learn from that and help Egypt draft a strong constitution that will protect against Islamist encroachment.
“Egypt is a cauldron right now of competing political forces,” Schanzer said. “This is a country where people have not been free to speak their mind and suggest new ways to govern the country. Now they’re finally airing these things, so voices are coming out that are highly disturbing, as well as those that are highly encouraging, and they’re all clashing against one another.”
Reuters contributed to this report.