CAIRO — Egypt's president set parliamentary elections to begin in April — a decision that an opposition leader denounced Friday as "a recipe for disaster" because of the ongoing political turmoil in the country.
About 15,000 people took to the streets in the Suez Canal city of Port Said to demonstrate against President Mohammed Morsi, hanging effigies of him in the main square. Residents have been on a general strike for six days, demanding punishment for what they considered a heavy-handed police crackdown during unrest in the city.
Morsi scheduled the staggered, four-stage voting process to begin April 27 and end in June. The newly elected parliament would convene on July 6, according to a decree issued late Thursday night.
He hopes the election will end the political turmoil that has beset Egypt for the past two years, since the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. The upheaval has scared away foreign investors and dried up tourism, both crucial foreign currency earners that helped the government pay for subsidized goods needed by the poor for survival.
But Mohamed ElBaradei, who leads one of the main opposition groups, the National Salvation Front, wrote on his Twitter account Friday that Morsi's "decision to go for parliamentary elections amidst severe societal polarization and eroding state authority is a recipe for disaster."
The NSF accuses Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters of monopolizing power and reneging on campaign promises to set up an inclusive government that introduces far-reaching reforms.
The opposition has called for amending articles in a new constitution that passed in a nationwide referendum. It also demands the resignation of the current technocrat Cabinet appointed by Morsi that includes eight Brotherhood ministers and other Islamists.
Factory workers, activists and laborers in Port Said have held street rallies that brought the city on the northern tip of the Suez Canal to a halt, although shipping in the international waterway has not been affected.
Port Said commentator Sayid Azab said the city opposes Morsi's timetable for the parliamentary vote.
"Everyone is rejecting the elections and asking how they can take place in the absence of stability," he said.