Egypt announces dates for elections to what should be its first parliament in three years - while President al-Sisi appears unexpectedly at a Christian mass in Cairo. Both are moves to heal and restore, say its leaders - but are they enough to woo back foreign investors? David Pollard reports.
Egypt's had its share of upheaval over the last four years. Could it be heading for calmer waters? Its leaders say they're at least trying to steer it that way - and are setting a course for the first parliamentary elections in years. Officials announced two sets of dates with a first round vote in March. It may not all be plain sailing. One political movement is saying it'll boycott the vote. And there's the ongoing prospect of unrest by the Muslim Brotherhood, since the ousting of Islamist Mohamed Mursi as president in 2013. As for the man who, as army chief, toppled Mursi - he's scored a first by attending a Coptic Christian mass in Cairo. Christians make up about 10 percent of the 85 million population. They've largely coexisted peacefully with majority Sunni Muslims for centuries - but have been the target of a string of attacks over recent years. President al-Sisi offered festive greetings and stressed his desire for unity. A move that went down well with this Christian family as they celebrated their Christmas dinner. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) FAMILY MEMBER, MINA MELAD, SAYING: "Abdel Fattah al Sisi is the first president to visit the cathedral at Christmas. Not only was it a big surprise, but it also made everyone happy." Al-Sisi's government has been working to win back foreign investors. Will the apparent new mood in Egypt make them happier? Commerzbank's global financial economist, Peter Dixon says perhaps not. SOUNDBITE (English) PETER DIXON, GLOBAL FINANCIAL ECONOMIST, COMMERZBANK, SAYING: ''Investors at the moment are highly risk-averse. Across the board, we're seeing under-performance of many emerging market asset classes. I think although it's a step in the right direction politically, from an investor point of view, I don't think it's going to mean investors taking a significantly more positive stance, for the simple reason that they're not entirely sure what the geopolitical situation is going to look like in a few months time.'' The second round of the parliamentary vote was announced for late April. If it has to resort to run-offs, the process could drag on until early May.