Egypt will hold a presidential vote before parliamentary
polls, President Adly Mansour said, in a change to a
political roadmap which could pave the way for the swift
election of army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Parliamentary elections were supposed to be held first under
the timetable drawn up after the army overthrew President
Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July following
mass protests against his rule.
The decision to revise the order of elections is likely to
deepen tensions in Egypt, which is struggling to cope with
waves of political violence. Forty nine people were killed in
anti-government marches on Saturday, the third anniversary of
the popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
"I have taken my decision to amend the roadmap for the future
in that we will start by holding presidential elections first
followed by the parliamentary elections," interim leader
Mansour said in a televised speech.
Critics have campaigned for a change of the roadmap, saying
the country needs an elected leader to direct government at a
time of economic and political crisis and to forge a
political alliance before potentially divisive parliamentary
Sisi is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency
within days and win by a landslide. His supporters see him as
a strong, decisive figure able to stabilise Egypt.
The Brotherhood accuses him of masterminding a coup and hold
him responsible for widespread human rights abuses in a
crackdown against the movement which has killed up to 1,000
Islamists and put top leaders behind bars.
A new constitution voted in earlier this month opened the way
for a change in the order of the elections by leaving open
the question of which should come first.
"It was an expected move amid the growing signs that Sisi is
being groomed to become the next president," said Khaled
Dawoud, a well-known liberal activist.
Mansour did not announce a date for the presidential vote.
The constitution says steps towards holding the first of the
elections should be begin no later than 90 days from the
ratification of the document in mid-January.
While tough measures against the Brotherhood have nearly
crippled the movement, security forces have failed to contain
an Islamist insurgency. Militant attacks have raised fears
for the stability of Egypt, of great strategic importance
because of its peace treaty with Israel and control over the
Insurgents based in the Sinai Peninsula have stepped up
attacks, killing hundreds since army chief Sisi ousted Mursi,
Egypt's first democractically-elected president.
Gunmen killed three Egyptian soldiers in an attack on a bus
in the Sinai on Sunday, the military said, prompting a
warning from the army that it would eliminate the
Brotherhood, which it blames for much of Egypt's political
Anti-government demonstrations in Cairo on Saturday were
attacked by supporters of the new political order and
security forces, witnesses said. Of the 49 people killed, 22
Brotherhood supporters were shot dead with live rounds in one
district of northern Cairo, security sources said.
The violence highlighted deep divisions that have flared
often since the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak and raised
hopes of a stable democracy.
In another attack in the lawless Sinai, five soldiers were
killed on Saturday when an army helicopter crashed in the
north of the peninsula in an operation against militants.
Security sources said it was a missile attack, without giving
further details. The army has not commented on the cause of
Militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem)
claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on a helicopter in
a statement posted on the internet.
Egyptian authorities make no distinction between militant
groups operating in the Sinai and the Brotherhood, which
renounced violence in the 1970s but has been declared a
terrorist group by the Egyptian government.
In a statement about the bus attack posted on Facebook, the
army said: "We assure the Egyptian people of the great
determination of its men to fight black terrorism and the
complete elimination of the advocates of oppression and
sedition and blasphemy from followers of the Muslim
The soldiers were killed on their way back home from holiday
when gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons and
rocket-propelled grenades, security sources said.