CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's president said that the country's delayed parliamentary elections will take place before the end of 2015, according to a newspaper interview published Wednesday.
"I give my word - they will be held before the end of the year," President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told the daily newspaper El Mundo in an interview published a day before his official visit to Spain.
The parliamentary vote initially was set to take place in phases beginning on March 22. It is the final phase in a transition period following the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi by the military, led by el-Sissi at the time. He says the vote was delayed because of constitutional appeals.
Egypt has not had an elected legislature since 2012, when the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that parliament's lower chamber was not constitutionally elected.
Meanwhile Wednesday, a criminal court in Cairo's Giza district sentenced 71 people to life in prison over the 2013 burning of a church in the restive town of Kerdasa in the days following Morsi's ouster when security forces launched a violent crackdown on Islamist sit-ins. The sentencing applies to 19 individuals in custody and 52 people tried in absentia, all alleged members of Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Associated Press writer Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.