Egypt opposition leader calls for election boycott

Mohamed ElBaradei said holding elections at this time “is a recipe for disaster.”
Mohamed ElBaradei said holding elections at this time “is a recipe for disaster.”

CAIRO — Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei called Saturday for a boycott of parliamentary elections, drawing criticism from some within his movement who said it was a hasty decision.

The dispute showed the fragility of a fairly new opposition front forged after the deeply fragmented movement found little success at the polls since it led the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition infighting would only help ensure that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group remains Egypt’s dominant political force after the next vote.


ElBaradei wrote on Twitter that he “called for parliamentary election boycott in 2010 to expose sham democracy. Today I repeat my call, will not be part of an act of deception.’’ ElBaradei is a Nobel laureate who leads the opposition National Salvation Front.

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The comment reiterated a frequently heard opposition sentiment that democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi is acting like Mubarak.

Elections under Mubarak’s three-decade rule were widely rigged and Parliament was dominated by members of his ruling party.

Morsi called for the elections in a decree Thursday.

On Friday, ElBaradei said holding elections during this time of deep political polarization ‘‘is a recipe for disaster.’’


Morsi’s Brotherhood ­accused the opposition of running away from the challenge.

The deputy head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Essam el-Erian, responded to ElBaradei’s call on his Facebook page.

‘‘Running away from a popular test only means that some want to assume executive authority without a democratic mandate,’’ he said of the opposition. ‘‘We’ve never yet known them to face any election or serious test.’’

The mutual recriminations reflected a new escalation in political tensions that could spill into even wider strikes and protests ahead of the elections.

The opposition has accused Morsi and his Brotherhood backers of using election wins to monopolize power in tactics similar to the former regime.


They accuse Morsi of reneging on a promise to form an inclusive government representative of the Christian minority, women, and liberals.

Parliamentary election

In the country’s last major vote, a hotly disputed constitutional referendum in December, ElBaradei urged his supporters at the last minute to participate and vote ‘‘No’’ after a debate within the opposition over whether to boycott.

The referendum was mired in controversy and rights groups criticized unchecked voting irregularities.

The Islamists, accused of ramming the charter through, won passage by more than 60 percent, but turnout was low around 30 percent. Critics said the document opened the way for imposing Islamic law more strictly in Egypt.

Tensions soared in the run-up to the vote, with violent clashes between pro- and antigovernment protesters that led to bloodshed outside the presidential palace.

After ElBaradei’s boycott call, rifts began to emerge in the opposition. Even members of his opposition bloc said the group had not yet decided on a boycott.

Some activists criticized the call, saying it would alienate the masses and allow the Brotherhood free rein over the lower house of Parliament, which writes laws and is supposed to monitor the president.

The Brotherhood already has the most seats in the upper chamber of Parliament, largely an advisory body currently serving as an interim Parliament.

In Egypt’s first free elections in 2011, the Brotherhood won nearly half of seats in Parliament and the more conservative Islamists known as Salafis won a quarter.

A splinter Salafi party has emerged since then and competition for seats is expected to be fierce.

Within months of being elected, the lower house of Parliament was disbanded in June of last year after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that a third of the chamber’s members were elected illegally.

The upcoming elections are to reinstate the legislature.