Mubarak announces upper house elections

muba.jpgEgyptian President Hosni Mubarak has announced the first round of elections for the country’s upper house of parliament will be held on June 11.

The second round will be on June 18, Mubarak said in a presidential decree, according to the official MENA news agency.

The Shura — or advisory — Council has 264 seats, of which two-thirds are elected and one third are presidential appointments.

Members of the house, currently dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party, serve for six years, with elections for a third of the membership every three years.

In April, the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, which controls one fifth of the People’s Assembly, said it would field 20 candidates in the Shura elections, despite a new constitutional ban on religious-based political activity.

The Islamist group, which is officially banned in Egypt, won 88 seats in the 2005 legislative elections by fielding candidates as independents, making it the largest single opposition force in parliament.

The group’s ability to take part in the Shura elections remains in doubt, however, in the wake of a series of recent constitutional amendments that specifically prohibit political activity on a religious basis.

“We insist on participating and we are ready for any problems or trouble,” senior Brotherhood leader Issam Al-Arian told AFP when the group announced its decision to run.

“They cannot simply ban candidates because that would destroy the process,” he said.

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