CAIRO Egypt's military rulers are studying a proposal from their own advisers to bring forward parliamentary elections by two weeks after demands from protesters and politicians to speed up transition to civilian rule, an advisory council member said on Sunday.
Many Egyptians believe the army is no longer fit to manage security on the ground and carry out difficult reforms at a time of political and economic crisis.
On Friday, thousands rallied in Cairo and other cities to demand the army give up power and to vent anger after 17 people were killed in recent protests where troops beat and clubbed women and men even as they lay on the ground.
Voting for the upper house, or Shura Assembly, is due to be held in three rounds beginning on January 29 and ending on March 5. It follows a similarly protracted vote for the lower house that began in November and is due to end in mid-January.
"The military council has agreed to study the option of shortening the election time for the Shura by two weeks, to end on February 22," Sherif Zahran, a member of a council advising the military on the transition to civilian rule told Reuters.
Zahran said the judiciary had agreed to the idea of squeezing Shura elections into two stages instead of three and that a plan to shorten the vote tallying process was being studied also.
"This would allow for both the (lower house of) parliament and Shura to convene in a joint meeting by the end of February," Zahran told Reuters.
Once parliament convenes, Egypt will draw up a constitution and a presidential vote is planned before the end of June.
Protests continue daily in Tahrir Square. Several hundred protesters have set up camp there. Some are demanding the army bring forward the presidential vote to as early as January 25, the first anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Others, worrying that 10 months after Mubarak's downfall Egypt remains in disarray, protested on Friday to end protests so order can be restored and the economy revitalised.
A source close to the army said the military council, including leader Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, was meeting to decide on what was needed to speed up the Shura vote.
"Other changes will have to take place if this plan passes, such as how long the constitutional committee will take to draft the constitution," the source said, adding that Tantawi would first have to ratify any new voting timetable.
No one at the military council was available to comment.
Analysts say a speedy transfer could play into the hands of military by boosting the chances of presidential candidates with close ties to the army, including Amr Moussa.
Moussa, a former foreign minister and ex-head of the Arab League, said an earlier presidential was also being studied.
"Field Marshal Tantawi said presidential elections will be held no later than June 30. This means there is room for presidential elections to come sooner," Moussa, who is also a member of the advisory council, told Reuters on Sunday.
(Writing by Patrick Werr)
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