Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jerusalem Post | Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood scoring high

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood scoring high
By ASSOCIATED PRESS


The leading Islamic group is scoring high in Egypt's legislative elections where, with only a third of polling completed, it has more than doubled its representation in parliament.

Initial results from Tuesday's runoff polls show that the Muslim Brotherhood won 30 seats while the ruling National Democratic Party won 50 seats, the semi-official Middle East News Agency reported, quoting judges in counting stations.

The result was "a shock," said Abdel Gelil el-Sharnoubi, the editor of the Brotherhood's Web site. "I'm now praying to God to protect us from future government wrath."

The NDP's tally is likely to rise as many of the 45 independents who won Tuesday are former members of the party who stood alone after failing to win the party's nomination. Such independents usually rejoin the party at the end of the elections.

Other opposition parties and groups scored eight seats, MENA reported.

The runoffs were called to decide the 133 seats where no candidate won more than half the vote in the polls on Nov. 9, the first round in the four-week elections.

The combined results of the runoffs and last week's polls show the Brotherhood has already captured 34 seats in parliament, more than double the 15 it held in the outgoing assembly. This confirms its position as the biggest single opposition group to President Hosni Mubarak's government.

An analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Amr Choubaki, said he did not expect the Brotherhood to fare so well.

[...]

The ruling party is not expected to lose its long-held majority in the 454-seat parliament. The elections are seen as a gauge of how far Mubarak is prepared to go toward opening up the political system. During the past two years, the United States has put increasing pressure on the president to liberalize his authoritarian administration.

Human rights groups and election monitors reported widespread irregularities, including ruling party supporters attacking and intimidating opposition supporters at polling stations and busing in voters from outside the constituency.

"Hired thugs are targeting primarily supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidates," the Independent Committee on Election Monitoring said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said it saw "increasing instances of election bribes ... collective voting, and in some cases assaults on voters for not supporting NDP candidates."

But the elections are a step forward in that it is the first time Egyptian monitors have been allowed inside polling and counting stations.

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