World Bulletin/News Desk
Candidates in Egypt's presidential election on Tuesday criticised a decision by the election committee to suspend its work after a perceived insult from parliament.
The judicial committee overseeing the first real presidential vote in the country, due to start later this month, announced late on Monday it would not meet with presidential candidates and media as planned pending "suitable conditions for the meeting."
Justifying its decision, the committee complained that members of parliament had voiced distrust in its work and insulted its judges, calling on the ruling army council which took power from ousted President Hosni Mubarak to intervene to resolve the stand-off.
"Democracy has to be protected," Amr Moussa, a former Arab League chief who is a front-runner in the race, said in a statement, voicing surprise at the decision and calling on the army council to prevent any "ominous repercussions."
The unexpected demarche has injected further uncertainty into Egypt's turbulent transition to democracy, although it was unclear what the impact on the timetable for the vote due to be held on May 23-24 would be.
The army has insisted the vote will go ahead on time.
The remarks that offended the committee were uttered during a debate on Monday when the chamber discussed possible modifications to the law regulating the vote. Several deputies criticised the election panel of senior judges, some of whom oversaw elections in Mubarak's era of rigged polls.
Another front-runner, Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood said the committee's reaction to the debate was "stunning."
The development has fuelled suspicions among activists who fret that the army is not committed to relinquishing power, complicating a transition already marred by violence and political brinkmanship.
Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahy also criticised the decision.
"The decision to suspend its work is unacceptable regardless of the reasons because it could delay or obstruct the election process. National interests must be put above any other considerations," Sabahy said.
"What happened is an unnecessary escalation," he added. "The Egyptian people will not allow any obstacles to the electoral process or any delay in handing over power."
The army has pledged to hand over power to a new president by July 1, but many Egyptians question the army's commitment to transferring power after decades during which presidents who were drawn from the military's top ranks, like Mubarak, ruled.
One group of activists, the Revolutionary Front For Change, described the move as a "plot" to undermine the transition, saying the reasons provided by the election committee for the suspension had no legal basis and were "childish."
"We will not allow the elections to be suspended or delayed by a single day and we will consider that anyone who attempts to take a decision that would halt or delay them as an enemy of the revolution," the group said.
The speaker of parliament also responded in a statement, published by state news agency MENA, saying that deputies had exercised their right to discuss the law and had done no damage to the election committee, describing the judicial panel's statement as "offensive" to parliament.Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Mayıs 2012, 14:26