President says municipal vote set for April 8

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CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak announced on Sunday that long delayed municipal polls will be held on April 8, the state news agency Mena reported.

The polls were postponed for two years in 2006, in what observers said was a way to avoid another election success for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood after the Islamist group s shock gains in the 2005 legislative poll.

In the run up to the vote, Egyptian security forces have stepped up arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members nationwide.

On Sunday they arrested 40 Brotherhood members for campaigning ahead of the local polls, in dawn raids on homes in the port city of Ismailia, the Nile Delta province and Beni Sueif, south of Cairo, a security source said.

Eleven others were nabbed later Sunday, bringing to 51 the total number of those arrested in one single day.

They were arrested for activities related to the municipal elections, the source told AFP. Any Muslim Brotherhood member caught preparing for these elections will be detained.

The Brotherhood says a continued clampdown by the authorities is aimed at preventing its members from running in the April local elections.

The Islamist group is officially banned but its members sit as independent candidates in parliament, holding one fifth of the seats.

Traditionally controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party, the municipal polls are expected to draw fierce competition after a constitutional amendment was passed in 2005, requiring independent presidential candidates to secure the backing of council members. -AFP

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