Egypt September Polls Delayed to 'October or November'

Egypt's military rulers have decided to delay the parliamentary elections scheduled for September by up to two months, a military official told state media on Wednesday.

"It has been decided to hold elections for the People's Assembly and the Shoura Council next October or November," MENA state news agency quoted the official as saying, in reference to the lower and upper houses of parliament.

The official said the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces -- which took power when president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February -- "is committed to its previous announcement that the electoral process would start six months from the constitutional declaration" of March.

"This means that the electoral process for the People's Assembly and the Shoura Council would start before the end of September," the official said.

The process -- including presentation of candidacy, campaigning, fixing voter registration lists and defining constituencies -- would "take no less than 30 days and up to 50 or 60 days which is why elections would be held in October or November," he said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters he was unaware of the delay but voiced understanding for the difficulties in organizing the elections.

"It's important that these elections move forward in as free and fair a manner as possible," he said. "If that indeed entails a delay, that's something we would have to look at. But it's important that they remain on track."

Previously, the military council had clearly set out its timetable stating parliamentary elections would be held in September, followed by the drafting of a constitution and that a date would then be set for a presidential election.

The debate on whether or not to delay the elections had been debated for months, with some calling for elections to be postponed in order to give new groups more time to get organized.

In March, 77 percent of Egyptians voted in favor of holding an election first and having the new parliament draft a fresh constitution.

The Muslim Brotherhood had thrown its full weight -- and its already high organizational skills -- behind a "yes" vote because a September poll was expected to boost the group.

Some groups had expressed concern that having the poll first would result in the Islamist group having too much influence over the constitution.

But others wanted to push ahead with elections to have the ruling military council -- which they see as an extension of the old regime -- out of power as soon as possible.

The announcement comes as thousands have camped out across the country since nationwide rallies on Friday to demand political change.

Source: Agence France Presse

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