Egypt’s government is likely to call a presidential election before parliamentary polls, officials said on Monday, rearranging the political timetable in a way that could see army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi elected head of state by April.
Parliamentary elections were supposed to happen first under the road map unveiled after the army deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July after mass protests against his rule.
But critics have campaigned for a change, 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 a potentially divisive parliamentary election.
In continuing unrest in the country, one person was killed and five others were wounded on Monday in the Mediterranean town of Damietta in clashes between opponents and supporters of Mr. Morsi. Such incidents have taken place almost daily since Mr. Morsi was removed.
Also on Monday, a Canadian journalist was one of four employees of the Al Jazeera television network being held in Cairo and interrogated by Egyptian state security about interviewing members of Mr. Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Opponents of changes to the timing of elections say this risks creating a president with unchecked power.
If Gen. el-Sissi, who is widely tipped to win the vote, wins, it would restore the army’s sway over a post controlled by military men until Mr. Morsi was propelled to office last year by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Gen. el-Sissi’s Islamist opponents view him as the mastermind of a military coup and a crackdown that has killed hundreds of Mr. Morsi’s supporters and jailed thousands more.
Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, the English-language bureau chief for Al Jazeera in Egypt, was taken into custody late on Sunday along with three of his colleagues: Peter Greste, an Australian journalist, and two Egyptians who were identified as producer Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy.
Mr. Fahmy is believed to also hold Egyptian citizenship. According to his own social networking page, he attended university in Calgary in the 1990s before working for a number of media outlets, including CNN. He has been with Al Jazeera since September.
The Qatar-based network condemned the arrests, saying they followed a period of sustained intimidation towards Al Jazeera staff, property and coverage since the military-orchestrated removal of Mr. Morsi in July. The network demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of the journalists.
The Canadian government confirmed it is aware that a Canadian citizen had been arrested in Egypt and said in a statement that consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information.
Mr. Fahmy and the other Al Jazeera journalists were taken from their work suites in the Mariott Hotel.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday classified Egypt, alongside Syria and Iraq, as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to operate in.
- With a report from Gloria Galloway in Ottawa