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Egyptian Opposition Plans Election Boycott

By Reuters / October 18, 1990



CAIRO

EGYPT'S opposition is threatening an unprecedented boycott of parliamentary elections next month in a bid to speed up the pace of slow but steady political reform. The opposition Wafd Party decided Oct. 16 not to contest the Nov. 29 polls because there was no guarantee that they would be fair, Chairman Fouad Serraggidin said.

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A senior Wafd official who asked not to be named said that the Muslim Brotherhood and two other parties, the Socialist Labor Party and the Progressive Unionists, planned to join the boycott and would announce the decision at a joint news conference Oct. 21.

Wafd officials said a majority of the party's 50-man higher council approved the boycott decision on Oct. 16, arguing that the government had rejected demands for a fair election.

They said that the government drew up new election laws without seeking opposition views, rejected complete judicial supervision of the polls, and refused to suspend emergency laws before the vote.

The new law reduces the number of seats to 454, abolishes party lists, and divides the country into a larger number of smaller constituencies. The Wafd says that the new constituencies have been gerrymandered to give President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party an advantage.

The boycott plan presents a challenge to Mr. Mubarak, whose cautious nurture of multiparty politics has made Egypt one of the more open societies in the Arab world.

Since President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in October 1981, Mubarak has added to the liberalization his predecessor began, removed many restraints on the press and allowed the number of recognized parties to grow to nine.

At the last election in 1987 Mubarak's party won a majority in the 458-member parliament.

The opposition took just over 100 seats, with 61 won by an alliance between Socialist Labor and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mubarak called the Nov. 29 polls after a referendum approved the dissolution of parliament.