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CAIRO: An Egyptian court threw the timetable for parliamentary elections into confusion yesterday, ordering the cancellation of President Mohammed Mursi’s decree calling the vote and forcing a likely delay to polls due to start in April.
The Administrative Court’s ruling deepened Egypt’s political uncertainty at a time of social unrest and economic crisis, with the nation’s foreign currency reserves at critically low levels and the budget deficit soaring.
The court said it had referred Egypt’s amended electoral law, under which the Lower House polls are due to be held, to the Supreme Constitutional Court for review.
Egypt has been torn by political confusion and strife since the 2011 uprising that deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Many opposition parties had announced they would boycott the vote, which had been due to be held in four stages from April 22 until late June.
Mursi’s office said that it respected the court’s decision, which was handed down as the government says it wants to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $4.8bn loan to shore up Egypt’s finances.
“It is now likely that elections will be postponed, extending political uncertainties and further delaying a possible IMF deal at a time when restoring confidence in the economy is needed to avert a potential economic crisis,” said Farouk Soussa, chief economist at Citi in Dubai.
“Egypt’s economic challenges are deepening by the day, while the prospects of addressing these seemingly diminish at an equally alarming rate,” he said.
The IMF is unlikely to want to grant a loan while there remains significant upheaval and lack of any form of political consensus, said Jason Tuvey, Assistant Economist at Capital Economics in London.
“This uncertainty will further weigh on the Egyptian economy, which is already very weak, and possibly lead to further capital flight and greater pressure on the pound.”
A statement issued by Mursi’s office said the presidency respected the court’s decision, adding that it was thereby “upholding the value of the rule of law and the constitution and implementing the principle of the separation of powers”.
Earlier, Mohamed Gadallah, Mursi’s legal adviser, had made the same point but said the presidency would nevertheless appeal the ruling.
However, the presidency said on Twitter that an appeal was “unlikely”.