Africa

Egypt to head to the polls in April

Marwa Awad

Egypt, battered by political turmoil and an economic crisis, will hold a parliamentary election in April, officials have said.

Despite its economic crisis that has sent the local currency tumbling, officials said Egypt will hold elections in April. (AFP)

Under Egypt's new constitution approved by a referendum last month, President Mohamed Mursi must set an election date within 60 days of when he signed the document into law on December 26.

"The vote for parliament will take place in April," an official at the presidency, who asked not to be named, said on Wednesday. "The exact date for the vote has not been fixed yet and the president will announce it no later than February 25."

The Egyptian government is trying to clinch a $4.8-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ease economic strains worsened by a turbulent political transition since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Unrest over the constitution rammed through by Mursi late last year prompted the president to withdraw tax rises seen as part of a programme provisionally agreed with the IMF.

The pound's fall
The IMF is expected to send a technical team back to Cairo within two to three weeks to discuss the loan, which is vital to restoring a measure of confidence in the economy and in the Egyptian pound – which fell to a new low at a central bank auction of US dollars on Wednesday.

The pound has lost 5% of its dollar value since the central bank adopted a new system of dollar sales on December 30, designed to stem the currency's fall. The pound has dropped 10.7% since Mubarak's overthrow nearly two years ago.

Qatar threw Egypt a financial lifeline on Tuesday, saying it had lent the country another $2-billion and given it an extra $500-million outright to help control the currency crisis which has drained foreign reserves to a critical level.

Egypt has not had a lower house of parliament since the Constitutional Court dissolved the body in June. Legislative power now rests with the upper house.

"With a new parliament in place, Egypt would have completed its transition with an elected president, a constitution and a parliament," said another official at the presidency.

The Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled Mursi to power in a June election, was the biggest bloc in the previous parliament. – Reuters

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