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Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood scoring high

Associated Press
Nov. 16, 2005


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.

`I expected them to be the biggest opposition bloc in parliament, but not to win 34 seats in the first round,` said Choubaki, who wrote his PhD on the Brotherhood.

As a banned organization, the Brotherhood is not allowed to run as a political party, but it fields candidates who stand as independents.

Scattered violence and allegations of rigging marred the runoffs.

Angry supporters of an independent candidate torched the headquarters of the ruling party in the low-income district of Imbaba, Cairo, after hearing that their man had lost, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The supporters of Abdel Moneim Emara, the independent candidate in the Imbaba runoff, toured the neighborhood chanting: `I swear by Egypt`s sky and soil, the NDP has ruined things!`

Police arrested two people for burning the NDP headquarters and were looking for two other suspected arsonists, the police official said.

In the seats that were decided on Nov. 9, the NDP won 26 seats, the Brotherhood got 4, and one seat went to an independent.

The Brotherhood is fielding about 100 candidates in the second and third rounds of the election on Nov. 20 and Dec. 1.

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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