BEIRUT

Middle East

Egypt's Mussa ups opposition poll boycott threat

Egyptian opposition leader and Nobel Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei (C), former presidential candidate Egyptian Member of Parliament Hamdeen Sabbahy (L) and former Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa attend a press conference in Cairo on January 28, 2013. (AFP PHOTO / STR)

CAIRO: The Egyptian opposition is more determined than ever to boycott parliamentary elections after Islamist President Mohamed Mursi challenged a court decision delaying the polls, former Arab League chief Amr Mussa said on Thursday.

In an interview with AFP, Mussa said there had been no "serious talks" with the president on the opposition's core demand for a government of national unity despite the impact of the political deadlock on Egypt's faltering economy.

The opposition has come under strong US pressure to take part in the elections, which had been scheduled for next month, and Mussa said it might have done so had the president accepted the delay ordered by the court.

"We would have gained some time to talk about the points we are raising, and to give the government time to reconsider," he said.

The president's appeal "does reverse the situation," he said, "bringing it back to the tension around the election."

Mursi lodged the appeal on Wednesday against the March 6 court order cancelling his calling of the election, arguing he had acted within his sovereign powers when he set the timetable. The court has yet to give its ruling.

Mussa heads the National Salvation Front along with former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei and leftist Hamdeen Sabbahi, who like Mussa ran against Mursi for the presidency last June.

The opposition bloc is demanding a national unity government ahead of any vote. Mursi insists it is for the new parliament to choose a new administration.

"There has to be a unity government to face the situation, and take responsibility -- collective responsibility, national responsibility," Mussa said of the country's teetering economy.

Mursi has faced persistent unrest in several cities. Clashes between protesters and police regularly close down a major Cairo thoroughfare near Tahrir Square, the hub of protests that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.

In the Suez Canal city of Port Said, the government has lost much of its authority after deadly riots forced Mursi to call in the military and withdraw police from their headquarters.

"This is the result of anger and frustration and the absence of the government itself," Mussa said.

"There is nothing for those people, young or old, to say: 'ah, now there is a good line of policy, let us see.' There is nothing of that kind," Mussa said, speaking in English.

"What I hear from people is... there is nothing that has changed. People say that is exactly what the revolution is about -- the poverty situation, the services situation."

 

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