Egypt will hold parliamentary elections in several stages beginning April 27, according to a presidential decree.
The election process will take place in four stages: April 27-28, May 15-16 and June 2-3 and 19-20, according to the official decree released on Thursday by President Mohamed Morsi’s spokesman, Yassir Ali.
The House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, will hold its first session July 6, the decree said.
The election comes at a time when Egypt is gripped by unrest, insecurity and a crippling economic crisis – the country is deeply divided between Morsi’s supporters and a liberal-led opposition.
Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters hope the election will mark an end to a turbulent political transition punctuated by series of violence that have thwarted his efforts to revive an economy in deep crisis.
Earlier in the day the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, adopted an electoral law as amended by the Constitutional Court, clearing the way for Morsi to set a date for the lower house election.
“Parliamentary elections for 2013 will begin on April 27, over four stages,” Mohamed Gadallah, a legal adviser to Morsi, said.
The vote would be held in phases in different regions because of a shortage of poll supervisors. The last lower house election lasted from late November 2011 until January the following year.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FPJ), which Morsi headed before his election, said it expected to win more seats in the next election than in the previous vote, in which is clinched about 40 percent of the vote.
Violence and insecurity
But the Brotherhood has faced hostility from a wide-ranging opposition, including conservatives, which accuse the group of monopolising power.
“The decision of the Constitutional Court is binding and we have no right to vote on it. It must be carried out“
– Ahmed Fahmy, Shura Council speaker
Egypt has witnessed violence, insecurity and price hikes, fuelling political turmoil already plaguing the country.
Protests by Egyptians, who accuse Morsi of betraying the revolution that brought him to power, have often turned into violent and sometimes deadly clashes with police.
Morsi had been expected to ratify the electoral law by February 25. The lower house was dissolved last year after the court ruled the original law used to elect it was unfair.
The new chamber is likely to have to decide on tough economic measures that the International Monetary Fund is demanding in return for a US $4.8bn loan which Egypt needs to tackle an economic crisis.
On Monday, the Constitutional Court demanded changes to five articles of the revised electoral law. The Shura Council accepted this ruling and adopted the legislation without a vote on Thursday.
“The decision of the Constitutional Court is binding and we have no right to vote on it. It must be carried out,” said Ahmed Fahmy, the Council’s speaker.
The new law bars members of parliament from changing their political affiliation once elected.
Under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, independents were often cajoled into joining the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which monopolised parliament and political life before the 2011 revolution.
The law also stipulates that one third of the lower house should be designated for independents and bans former members of the now defunct NDP from participating in politics for at least 10 years.