CAIRO (AP) — Egypt on Sunday announced that long-awaited parliamentary elections will take place in October and November, a hoped-for step toward democracy amid a harsh crackdown on dissent.
Ayman Abbas, head of the Supreme Election Committee, said that half the country's 27 governorates will vote on Oct. 18-19. The second stage will take place for the remaining governorates on Nov. 22-23.
Voters outside Egypt for the first stage will cast ballots on Oct. 17-18, and the rest on Nov. 21-22. The period for candidates to register opens Sept. 1 and lasts 12 days.
Egypt has been without a legislature for three years. In its absence, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi holds legislative authority and has passed dozens of laws by decree in just over a year of his tenure. Parliamentary elections were supposed to be held in March, but a court suspended them over districting issues.
As army chief, el-Sissi led the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. El-Sissi was elected president last year.
Last July, he endorsed an amended law defining voting districts, which political groups and rights defenders said was steered by security concerns and ignored demands of Egypt's budding political groups seeking smaller districts to enable them to compete.
Speaking at a news conference in Cairo, Abbas said that the first stage of the vote would be for the governorates of Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, el-Wadi el-Gadid, Sohag, Qena, Aswan, Red Sea, Luxor, Alexandria, Beheira and Marsa Matrouh.
The second stage would encompass Cairo, Qalioubiya, Dakahliya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Kafr el-Shiekh, Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai.
The previous parliament was dissolved via court order over electoral technicalities in June 2012, just days before Morsi was elected. The largest bloc in that parliament consisted of members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, who frequently teamed with ultra-conservative Salafi Muslim MPs to effectively dominate the legislature.
Authorities banned the Brotherhood and declared it a terrorist organization in the wake of Morsi's ouster. In its absence, and with some secularist opposition groups expected to boycott the vote, Egypt's next parliament will likely be stocked with supporters of el-Sissi's military-backed government.