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Egyptian opposition to boycott elections

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

CAIRO — In another blow to Egypt's troubled democratic transition, the main opposition coalition announced on Tuesday it will boycott upcoming parliamentary elections because it doesn't trust the Islamic-led government of President Mohamed Morsy to guarantee a fair vote.

The decision by the secular and liberal National Salvation Front was widely expected after the nation's highest court ruled this month that provisions in the election law were unconstitutional. The opposition's strategy virtually ensures Islamists, notably the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Nour Party, will dominate the new legislature when voting begins in April.

The opposition has struggled since the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak to forge a galvanizing vision for a new Egypt. It has been plagued by internal divisions and overwhelmed by the grassroots reach of Islamists to turn out voters.

Despite its shortcomings, however, the National Salvation Front was the only credible voice challenging the country's drift toward political Islam.

“There can be no elections without a law that guarantees the fairness of the election process and a government that can implement such a law and be trusted by the people,” said Sameh Ashour, a spokesman for the salvation front.

The opposition is “boycotting because they have limited options,” said Magdy Sobhi, an analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

He added that Morsy refused to meet key opposition demands, including appointing a new cabinet and forming a committee to amend the new Islamist-drafted constitution.

“We are back at square one,” he said. “There is a large division in the Egyptian street. The only solution now is for the presidency and the main opposition to sit down and have genuine talks to solve the political crisis.”

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