Egypt court throws election timetable up in the air

Wed Mar 6, 2013 2:33pm EST
 
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By Marwa Awad and Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court threw the timetable for parliamentary elections into confusion on Wednesday, ordering the cancellation of President Mohamed Mursi's decree calling the vote and forcing a likely delay to polls due to start in April.

The Administrative Court's ruling deepened Egypt's political uncertainty at a time of social unrest and economic crisis, with the nation's foreign currency reserves at critically low levels and the budget deficit soaring.

The court said it had referred Egypt's amended electoral law, under which the lower house polls are due to be held, to the Supreme Constitutional Court for review.

Egypt has been torn by political confusion and strife since the 2011 uprising that deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Many opposition parties had announced they would boycott the vote, which had been due to be held in four stages from April 22 until late June.

Mursi's office said that it respected the court's decision, which was handed down as the government says it wants to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $4.8 billion loan to shore up Egypt's finances.

"It is now likely that elections will be postponed, extending political uncertainties and further delaying a possible IMF deal at a time when restoring confidence in the economy is needed to avert a potential economic crisis," said Farouk Soussa, chief economist at Citi in Dubai.

"Egypt's economic challenges are deepening by the day, while the prospects of addressing these seemingly diminish at an equally alarming rate," he said.

The IMF is unlikely to want to grant a loan while there remains significant upheaval and lack of any form of political consensus, said Jason Tuvey, Assistant Economist at Capital Economics in London.   Continued...

 
People shout slogans on hunger and poverty during an anti-government protest in Cairo February 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany