Egypt to hold presidential elections first, weekend blasts and clashes strengthen General Sisi’s hand

By bne IntelliNews January 27, 2014

Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour made a long-awaited announcement that presidential elections will be held ahead of parliamentary elections, thus, altering the political roadmap announced on July 2013 when a coalition of political forces backed by the military ousted former President Mohamed Morsi. The decision was based on Article 230 of the constitution approved by a national referendum on January 18 which gave the interim president the right to decide either presidential or parliamentary elections to be held first within 90 days of the constitution’s approval. Over the past few weeks, Mansour has been consulting with various political parties, activists and social movements on the matter.

The interim president’s decision followed a weekend of several bomb blasts throughout the country as well as large pro and anti government demonstrations coinciding with the third anniversary of the January 25 uprising against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. A total of four bomb blasts, including a large one in-front of Cairo’s central police headquarters, resulted in 6 deaths with nationwide street battles between supporters of the army and Muslim Brotherhood dominated Islamists as well as some left leaning movements claiming the lives of several dozens more and leaving at least 250 injured. Moreover, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a militant group operating in the Sinai Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the downing of a military helicopter - confirmed by the army – leading to the death of its five member crew. The downing of the military helicopter by a surface to air missile raises the bar on the type of ammunitions used by the 6-month long Sinai-based Islamist insurgency.

On its part, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members have been detained in the thousands over the past six months including former President Morsi, retorted that last weekend’s bomb blasts and street clashes were stage-managed by the security forces to give the impression of impending chaos that requires a strongmen to take charge of the country. They argue that this situation would strengthen the hand of General Abdel Fatah El Sisi in his presidential bid expected to be announced soon.

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