CAIRO (Reuters) - Political parties from across Egypt’s political spectrum threatened to boycott elections scheduled to start in November unless the country’s military rulers amend the election law.
The United States also put pressure on the government, saying it hoped Egypt’s emergency law — widely seen as a tool of repression under ex-President Hosni Mubarak — would be scrapped sooner than the military foresees next year.
Parties made their boycott threat in a joint statement on Wednesday as activists prepared another protest in Cairo for Friday. They hope it will attract thousands of people unhappy with the way the military rulers who replaced Mubarak after he was forced to step down in February have run the country.
About 60 political parties and groups, including the political wing of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood, set a deadline of Sunday for the military council to meet their demands. These include approving a law that would effectively prevent many Mubarak supporters from running for office.
“We will boycott (the elections) if they have not responded positively to our demands by Sunday,” Sayyid al-Badawi, the head of the Wafd party, told Reuters.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is the largest and best organized party in Egypt, since Mubarak’s National Democratic Party was dissolved by a court order.
The military council said on Tuesday that parliamentary elections would start in stages from November 28, and invited candidates to start registering for the poll from October 12.
Under rules approved by the council, which took over for a transitional period after Mubarak’s overthrow, parties will compete for two thirds of the upper and lower houses of parliament while the rest will be allocated to individuals.
Badawi said all the parties had agreed to set the demands in the statement to allow parties to field candidates on both party lists and for seats allocated to individuals.
Egypt’s military rulers said last week that the emergency law would remain in place until June next year, in keeping with a timeline set by Mubarak.
However, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a faster end to the law, which was reactivated two days after a September 9 attack by protesters on the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
“We hope to see the law lifted sooner than that because we think that is an important step on the way to the rule of law and to the kind of system of checks and balances that are important in protecting the rights of the Egyptian people,” she said in Washington on Wednesday.
“We want to see this as soon as possible,” she told a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.
Egyptian political parties want the military council to activate a “Treason Law” issued in the 1950s to fight political corruption and abuse of office. In August the government revived an amended version of the law, state news agency MENA reported. It was sent to the military council but has yet to be approved.
Under the law, any government official, member of parliament or minister may be punished for abuse of power if they, their relatives or acquaintances benefited from any public office they had held. Activists said the law would effectively bar many Mubarak loyalists from running for office for another 10 years.
Activists who led protests that ousted Mubarak have been rallying Egyptians to join the demonstration aimed at pressing the military council to scrap the emergency laws. They also demanded a clear road map for handing power to civilians that includes a date for presidential elections.
Activists have staged a series of small, spontaneous demonstrations across Cairo this week in what analysts say could mark a return to the tactics of the January 25 uprising.
“We are returning to civil resistance as we see Mubarak’s regime still in place,” said Mahmoud Afify, a spokesman for the April 6 Movement, which helped to lead the uprising.
The military council has portrayed itself as the protector of the revolution but has increasingly come under pressure to hand over power to civilians quickly.
Activists have called for a massive protest on Tahrir Square, center of the uprising that ousted Mubarak, with activists hoping it would be one of the biggest since February. Egypt’s benchmark stock index ended at a 29-month low because of worries about Friday’s protests.
Political parties want elections to be held on the basis of an all party-based proportional list system, rather than a mixed system which they say will allow Mubarak loyalists to use their wealth and tribal influence to buy their way to parliament.
Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by David Stamp