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Egypt's military postpones first post-Mubarak elections

CAIRO — Egypt's military rulers pledged Wednesday that new election and parliamentary laws would ensure fairness and transparency, but they put off setting a date for the country's first post-revolution parliamentary vote.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces also said that the new laws it had signed would outlaw religious propaganda in elections, an attempt to defuse allegations by many Egyptians that the military has aligned with Islamist political parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

The first elections since President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February had been scheduled for September, but the military council said they'd be delayed. Gen. Mamdouh Shahin, speaking for the council, said a committee would announce the date by the end of September.

Egypt's powerful military — which is running the country on an interim basis — has been fiercely criticized for being slow to enact reforms. Shahin said the generals decided to postpone the elections "after comprehensive dialogue and agreement with Egypt's political powers, youth and community movements," some of which had warned that September was too soon for parties to organize.

"Our coming elections will be an example of fairness and transparency that will be taught around the world," Shahin said.

The election laws — which underwent vast changes from the days of Mubarak's regime, which was famous for rigging votes in favor of his ruling party — say the judiciary will be the only executive authority in charge of administering elections.

"Members of the police force and the Interior Ministry will have absolutely no role in running the election process," the military council said.

The new laws scrap a quota implemented under Mubarak that guaranteed 64 parliamentary seats for women. But they continue to reserve 50 percent of the seats for farmers and laborers in an effort to make the legislature more representative of Egypt's estimated 84 million people.

The laws also preserve rules that guarantee half of the 504 parliament seats for independent candidates, with the remaining half to be filled with candidates selected by political parties.

Shahin reiterated that the military wasn't interested in running Egypt beyond the next elections but would ensure that the vote takes place in an atmosphere of security.

"The Egyptian armed forces, since it took over the country, has been keen on handing the country to a civil and fairly elected political administration," Shahin said.

(Sabry is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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