Egypt's parliamentary elections, previously scheduled to begin on April 27, have been brought forward to April 22, the presidential spokesman said on his Facebook page on Saturday.
Members of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority had criticized the planned timing of the elections because some voting would take place during their Easter holiday.
Andrea Zaki, vice-president of the Evangelical Church called on Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi to adjourn the voting until May 7.
The first round of the elections had been scheduled for April 27 and 28, coinciding with Palm Sunday. Meanwhile, a run-off vote, set for May 4 and 5, coincides with Holy Saturday and Easter celebrations, Bishop Rafiq Gereish, the head of the Catholic Church’s media office, told Egypt Independent.
Activists said the set dates are disrespectful toward the entire Coptic Christian population in the country, and the dates were aimed to exclude Copts from the balloting process.
This comes as top opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei also urged a boycott of Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections, likening the poll to the “sham democracy” of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
“Called for parliamentary election boycott in 2010 to expose sham democracy. Today I repeat my call, will not be part of an act of deception,” the Nobel Laureate wrote on his Twitter account.
Another National Salvation Front (NSF) opposition leader, former foreign minister Amr Mussa, said many members of the opposition coalition were inclined to boycott the four-round election but a final position had not yet been taken.
“There is a large group that wants a boycott, but it has not yet been discussed, and no decision has been taken,” he told AFP news agency.
In a statement posted on his Twitter account on Friday, ElBaradei said: “Mursi's decision to go for parliamentary elections amidst severe societal polarization and eroding state authority is a recipe for disaster.”
ElBaradei further argued that “insisting on polarization, marginalization and oppression, with the absence of a clear vision, management, credibility and justice, along with what we see now of security and economic deterioration is our way to abyss.”