Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Egypt Postpones Local Elections Despite Objections

The Washington Post
Associated Press
Wednesday, February 15, 2006; A15

CAIRO, Feb. 15 -- The Egyptian parliament Tuesday postponed local elections for two years despite opposition from the United States and a leading religious group, a state-owned newspaper and lawmakers said.

President Hosni Mubarak issued a decree last week calling for the delay, saying he needed time to draft legislation giving municipalities more power.

A law establishing the delay "was approved by a majority, and the government succeeded in refuting the opposition's objections," according to al-Gomhuria in its early Wednesday edition.

A spokesman for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Saeed Katatni, said the law was approved by 348 of parliament's 454 lawmakers.

"This is a sad day for Egypt. The dictatorship of majority again tried to exploit their numbers to prevent the voice of the people," Katatni said. The Brotherhood made a strong showing in legislative elections last year, and some saw the new law as an effort to block the group's ascendance.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Bush administration supports Egypt's progress toward democracy but opposed Mubarak's decision to put off local elections. "We will be talking to them about this," McCormack said Tuesday. "As a matter of principle, we don't support postponing of elections that have been scheduled."

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