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Egypt opposition wants boycott of vote

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:03 p.m.

CAIRO — Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei called on Saturday for a boycott of parliamentary elections, even as the vote, scheduled to begin on April 27, was brought forward to April 22.

Members of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority had criticized the planned timing of the elections because some voting would take place during their Easter holiday.

A presidential spokesman posted the change on his Facebook page on Saturday.

“(I) 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, a Nobel laureate who leads the opposition National Salvation Front, wrote on Twitter.

His comment reiterated a frequently heard opposition sentiment that democratically elected President Mohamed Morsy is acting like former President Hosni Mubarak.

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

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

Morsy's Muslim 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.”

Almost immediately after ElBaradei's boycott call, rifts began to emerge in the opposition. Even members of his opposition bloc, the NSF, said the group had not yet decided on a boycott.

Blogger and commentator Mahmoud Salem, a longtime activist who opposes Morsy, said he disagreed with a boycott because it offers no real alternative to the political impasse.

“Where's ElBaradei's party, its plan, its economic vision? Let's say a boycott is the right answer. What will they do so that they can be competitive in the next election?” Salem said.

He accused ElBaradei of calling for a boycott in part because the opposition has been unable to win significantly at the polls.

“In reality, it will end up as a parliament composed of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, or members of the ex-regime,” Salem said.

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