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'Parliamentary polls in Sept'

world Updated: Mar 28, 2011 18:29 IST

Egypt will hold its first parliamentary election since the fall of president Hosni Mubarak in September and the decades-long state of emergency will be lifted for the polls, the country's military rulers said on Monday.

But no date has yet been decided for a presidential vote, said General Mamduh Shahin of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power after 18 days of nationwide protests forced Mubarak to quit.

"The legislative elections will be held in September," he told reporters.

"We must hold legislative elections and when that is done we will announce the date for the presidential polls," Shahin said.

The military council stepped in to fill the political vacuum in Egypt when Mubarak quit on February 11 after three decades of autocratic rule.

The state of emergency was imposed after the 1981 assassination of Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat by Islamist gunmen at a military parade and was never lifted.

Human rights groups have consistently denounced the state of emergency which gives police wide powers of arrests, suspends constitutional rights and curbs non-governmental political activity.

"Parliamentary and presidential elections will not be held under the state of emergency," Shahin said, indicating that the hateful measures could be lifted by September.

Earlier this month the council organised a key referendum on proposed constitutional amendments, paving the way for post-Mubarak parliamentary and legislative elections within six months.

On March 19 more than 14 million Egyptians, or 77% of those who voted in the referendum, approved the military's plans for a swift return to civilian life, in the first test of democracy since the fall of Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood threw its huge influence and organisation behind a "yes" vote, although youth groups that spearheaded the protests which forced Mubarak to resign had called for a "no" vote.

They argued that the timetable set by the military was too tight for them to organise at grass roots level, that the Muslim Brotherhood would benefit and that the changes to the Mubarak-era constitution were too limited.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition movement in the country and officially banned in the Mubarak era, used its new found freedom -- and organisational skills -- to campaign for a "yes" vote.

The group, and other more fundamentalist religious movements, presented the "yes" vote as a religious duty, although many at polling stations said they voted "yes" for the sake of "stability" rather than religious inclinations.

Egypt held its last parliamentary election in November-December, and this was to be followed by presidential polls in September.

Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party won 80% of seats in the last legislative polls, which were denounced over alleged widespread fraud and violence during the campaign and the vote itself.

That parliament was quickly dissolved after Mubarak's ouster.

The Brotherhood had said days before the referendum that it had reached an agreement in principle to run a joint list with other parties in the next parliamentary election.

The heads of the Islamist group and some smaller secular parties agreed to run a united list in the election, Khairat al-Shater, one of the Brotherhood's deputies, told AFP on March 16.

The changes approved in the March 19 referendum are by themselves uncontroversial, although critics argued they did not go far enough in overhauling the Mubarak-era charter.

The president will serve a maximum of two four-year terms and will no longer have the power to refer civilians to the military courts.

The state of emergency which has governed Egyptian life for decades will be able to be imposed for just six months without endorsement in a popular referendum.