Egypt parties threaten boycott over election law

Military council leader Field Marshal Mohamad Tantawi Egypt's ruling military council, led by Field Marshal Mohamad Tantawi, has been set a deadline

Political groups in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are threatening to boycott parliamentary elections unless a disputed law is amended.

They object to an electoral law which allows a third of seats to be filled by independent candidates rather than political parties.

The political bloc has set a deadline of Sunday for Egypt's military rulers to meet their demands.

A statement demanded parties be allowed to contest all seats.

Elections are due to begin on 28 November. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Equality party is widely seen as the most formidable contender.

"We reject participation in the elections unless the article is changed," said the statement, signed by a coalition of The Democratic Alliance - which includes 37 parties - and the Freedom and Equality party.

The head of the Wafd party, Sayyid al-Badawi, said the elections would be boycotted if the government did not respond positively.

However, some officials of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to downplay the threat, saying the group would not boycott the vote.

Many Egyptian political groups say voting for a party rather than a single candidate will make it harder for former members of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's now-outlawed party to run.

Emergency laws

The coalition has also demanded that Egypt's ruling military council ban officials involved in the misuse of power under Mr Mubarak from standing in elections for the next 10 years.

They also want the lifting of emergency laws which were reactivated earlier this month after protesters ransacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called on the military government to lift the state of emergency as soon as possible.

She said the US wanted to see it happen sooner than the planned date of June next year, because it was "an important step on the way to the rule of law".

She was speaking after a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammed Amr in Washington.

Mrs Clinton described Egypt's ruling military council as "an institution of stability and continuity".

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