Egypt election committee working on new poll timetable

EGYPT;  Egypt's main election committee said on Sunday it was working on a new timetable for a long-awaited parliamentary poll after a court ruled that an article in a law defining voting districts was unconstitutional.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi directed his government to amend the article within one month.

Setting a new timetable is a move that looks set to delay the vote, which was due to start on March 22 and is the final step in a political roadmap the army announced in July 2013.

The latest development highlights Egypt's rocky path towards democracy since the ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 by the army after mass protests against the rule of Egypt's first democratically elected leader.

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Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

"The committee will prepare a new timetable for (election) measures after the legislative amendments are issued," a statement from the Supreme Election Committee said.

Earlier on Sunday, the Supreme Constitutional Court had ruled that an article in a law defining electoral districts was unconstitutional.

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"His Excellency stressed the need for coordination between all state institutions to carry out the parliamentary elections as soon as possible, in completion of the future roadmap agreed by Egyptians," the statement from Sisi's office said.

The first round of the parliamentary election was scheduled for March 22-23.

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"There's no way of holding them on time because the court has ruled part of the law unconstitutional," Mohamed Ansary, legal researcher at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, told Reuters, before the Election Committee's announcement.

Egyptian leaders say the election shows their commitment to democracy but critics say Sisi, who as army chief toppled Mursi, has undermined freedoms gained after the uprising that ended Mubarak's 30-year rule.

In the absence of parliament, Sisi has wielded legislative authority to introduce economic reforms that have impressed investors, while also curtailing political freedoms.

The People's Assembly is made up of 567 seats, with 420 elected as individuals and 120 through winner-takes-all lists with quotas for women, Christians and youth. The remaining seats are appointed by the president.

Several opposition political parties had announced in recent weeks they would boycott the election. Some political parties say the emphasis on individuals was a throwback to Mubarak-style politics, which often favoured candidates with wealth and family connections.

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