Egypt’s opposition threatens to boycott parliamentary polls
Egypt’s opposition on Saturday threatened to boycott upcoming parliamentary polls if President Mohammed Mursi does not find a “comprehensive solution” to the crisis gripping the country.
The National Salvation Front, the main coalition of parties and movements opposing the ruling Islamists, called for among other things the creation of a “national salvation” government, otherwise it will “not participate in the next parliamentary elections.”
President Mursi has appealed for calm after seven people died in clashes between police and protesters on the second anniversary of the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
As troops were deployed in the flashpoint city of Suez, Mursi, in a message posted on his Twitter account on Friday, urged “citizens to adhere to the values of the revolution, express opinions freely and peacefully and renounce violence.”
At least seven people died in Friday’s anti-government protests, according to the health ministry, six in Suez and one in Ismailiya, in the northeast, while 456 were injured in unrest across 12 provinces.
Egypt’s armed forces deployed troops on the ground, according to a security source.
“We have asked the third armed forces to send reinforcements on the ground until we pass this difficult period,” Adel Refaat, head of state security in Suez told state television according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Shipping through the Suez Canal was proceeding as normal on Saturday, an official from the canal authority said after violence flared in cities along its course in the past two days.
“Shipping movement through the Suez Canal is regular and is going ahead positively,” canal spokesman Tarek Hassanein told Reuters, adding 44 ships had entered the canal so far on Saturday.
After the sweeping changes of 2011, the Arab world’s most populous nation is struggling to find a balance between its elected leadership and opponents who accuse it of betraying the goals of the revolution.
Egypt is also in the throes of an economic crisis as foreign investment and tourism revenues dwindle, the Egyptian pound stands at its lowest level against the dollar and a budget deficit shows no sign of recovery.
In the province of Ismailiya, which neighbors Suez, protesters stormed the governorate headquarters, setting fire to a room used by security services and looting furniture and equipment, an AFP reporter said.
Demonstrators had earlier set fire to the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Ismailiya, the reporter said. Black smoke billowed from the windows of the apartment housing the movement’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) offices.
In the Mediterranean city of Damietta, protesters surrounded the governorate building and blocked traffic in the area, and in the Nile Delta city of Kafr el-Sheikh they stormed the courtyard of the building and clashed with police.
In Cairo, police fired tear gas at protesters outside the presidential palace, where clashes between Mursi’s allies and foes in December killed several people.
Army and police forces were deployed to protect the building, which houses the information ministry as well as state television and radio.
Marching protesters outside blocked traffic and while others set fire to tires and blocked traffic in both directions on the 6 October bridge, a flyover that connects east and west Cairo.
Some also blocked the underground metro at several stations in central Cairo, paralyzing the public transport used by millions every day.
In Egypt’s second city Alexandria, as demonstrators clashed with the security forces, some protesters set fire to tires, witnesses said.
In one street off Tahrir, dozens of youths threw rocks over the wall erected by security forces and police responded with tear gas, AFP journalists said. In the square itself, thousands of protesters chanted anti-Brotherhood slogans.
“The people want the downfall of the regime!” they chanted.
Mursi’s opponents accuse the country’s first freely elected president of failing to reform post-revolution Egypt while consolidating power in Brotherhood hands.
The Muslim Brotherhood did not officially call its own rallies, instead marking the second anniversary by launching a charitable and social initiative dubbed “Together we will build Egypt.”