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Egypt: Egypt's Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, adopted on Thursday an electoral law as amended by the Constitutional Court. Promptly after that Presiden Mursi announced that phased elections for the lower house of parliament will begin on 27 April.

The presidential decree said voting would take place in four regional stages, due to a shortage of election supervisors.

Thursday's decree states voting will take place in:

- Cairo and four other provinces on 27-28 April, with a run-off scheduled for 4-5 May

- Giza, Alexandria and six other provinces on 15-16 May, with a run-off scheduled for 22-23 May

- Eight provinces on 2-3 June, with a run-off scheduled for 9-10 June

- Six provinces on 19-20 June, with a run-off on 26-27 June

The new People's Assembly will be invited to convene on 6 July, according to the decree.

Comment: On Monday the Constitutional Court demanded changes to five articles of the revised electoral law. The Shura Council accepted this ruling and adopted the legislation without a vote.

Mursi's stated intention is to use the elections to quiet protests. A new electoral mandate will give him that power. Protests after Friday prayers should be a good gauge of elite reaction to the content of the law. No news reports mention whether women's and minority rights are protected in the process.

Mali: Malian troops were battling armed rebels in Gao in clashes that left the main courthouse in flames, after fighting erupted overnight with heavy gunfire reported around two main entrances to the city.

At least two civilians were wounded on Thursday in an apparent car bombing near a military camp in Kidal, northeast of Gao. The vehicle 'exploded around 500 yards from the camp occupied by French and Chadian soldiers, a local official said.

Comment: These are more small actions that indicate the Islamist militants are returning. These limited attacks are starting to occur with greater frequency. The militants are learning.

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