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Egypt likely to hold presidential vote first

Updated: 2013-12-31 13:58
( Agencies)

CAIRO - Egypt's government is likely to call a presidential election before parliamentary polls, officials said on Monday, rearranging the political timetable in a way that could see army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi elected head of state by April.

Parliamentary elections were supposed to happen first under the roadmap unveiled after the army deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July after mass protests against his rule.

But critics have campaigned for a change, saying the country needs an elected leader to direct government at a time of economic and political crisis and to forge a political alliance before a potentially divisive parliamentary election.

Opponents say it risks creating a president with unchecked power. Were that Sisi, who is widely tipped to win the vote, it would restore the army's sway over a post controlled by military men until Morsi was propelled to office last year by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sisi's Islamist opponents view him as the mastermind of a military coup and a crackdown that has killed hundred of Morsi's supporters and jailed thousands more.

In further unrest, one person was killed and five others were wounded on Monday in the Mediterranean town of Damietta in clashes between opponents and supporters of Morsi. Such incidents have taken place almost daily since Morsi was removed.

In Cairo, a court sentenced 139 Brotherhood members to two years in jail and a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($720) each for engaging in violent actions, protesting and rioting.

The Interior Ministry said it arrested 15 pro-Brotherhood female students in Al-Azhar University for Islamic Learning for causing chaos and inciting violence.

The university has been a main stage of violent protests since the start of its fall semester in September. Nine Azhar students have been killed in clashes with the police since then, of whom three died on Friday and Saturday after the government designated the Brotherhood group a terrorist organisation.

That announcement came after 16 people were killed in a suicide attack on a police station in the Nile Delta last Tuesday, an attack the Brotherhood condemned and blamed on a radical faction based in the Sinai Peninsula.

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