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Turmoil Grips Runoff Voting in Egypt
Turmoil Grips Runoff Voting in Egypt BEHEIRA, Egypt  Egyptian police barricaded polls and   arrested hundreds of supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement Saturday, while armed backers of Islamist and secular politicians clashed - severely curbing turnout and scarring a parliamentary runoff vote.    &
Monday, November 28,2005 00:00
by (AP)

Turmoil Grips Runoff Voting in Egypt

BEHEIRA, Egypt

 Egyptian police barricaded polls and  
arrested hundreds of supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood
movement Saturday, while armed backers of Islamist and secular
politicians clashed - severely curbing turnout and scarring a
parliamentary runoff vote.
        President Hosni Mubarak unexpectedly canceled plans to  
attend a EU-sponsored summit Sunday in Barcelona, Spain. His
spokesman, Suleiman Awwad, said developments in the Arab world were
behind the cancellation and denied election unrest was the cause.
        The violence came amid efforts by the fundamentalist Muslim  
Brotherhood - Egypt’s largest Islamist group - to bolster its
already impressive tally of 47 out of 186 seats decided so far in
the three-stage elections. The ruling National Democratic Party has
claimed 122 seats and is expected to maintain control of the
454-member legislature.
        The vote is seen as a test of Mubarak’s pledge to open the  
country’s authoritarian political system. But the strong showing by
the Brotherhood - already tripling its previous number of the seats
- has been followed by violence, unrest and detentions.
        Saturday’s runoff was to decide 122 seats in nine provinces  
where no candidate got more than half the vote in the second round
of voting Nov. 20. Final results were expected within three days.
        Election monitors complained that security forces blocked  
thousands of the 10 million eligible voters from entering polling
stations.
        "Voters are being forcefully barred from entering the  
polling stations (and) many polling stations are empty," said
Negad el-Borai, a monitor and human rights activist.
        Interior Ministry spokesman Ibrahim Hammad said no polling  
centers were closed and denied that police were blocking voters.
        Judge Hesham el-Bastawisy denounced the violence in an  
interview with the Arab satellite television channel Al-Arabiya.
        "What we’ve been hearing since early morning about what  
is happening at polling stations indicates this is not an election.
It’s a battle. Judges have been attacked, some wounded, some
prevented from entering polling stations," el-Bastawisy said.
        Senior Muslim Brotherhood member Ali Abdel Fattah said  
police arrested 680 members and supporters nationwide on Saturday.
        In Laqana, a Nile Delta town 105 miles north of Cairo,  
police blocked all voters from reaching the polls. Muslim
Brotherhood candidate Khalad Saad Attayia hails from the village and
was said to have near unanimous support.
        Dozens of residents showed an Associated Press reporter  
wounds and bruises they said they were caused by rubber bullets
fired by police. Authorities launched volleys of tear gas every few
minutes.
        As polls closed at 7 p.m. - after 11 hours in which none of  
the 7,500 registered voters had cast ballots - streets in the
village were empty of vehicle traffic but crammed with angry
townspeople.
        In the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, Egypt’s  
second-largest city, a U.S. human rights worker at one polling
station also reported that police kept Brotherhood supporters from
voting but lifted their cordon to ruling party supporters who showed
up in buses at sunset.
        At that point Brotherhood voters and other opposition  
supporters began hurling rocks at police, who opened fire with tear
gas, the observer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because
his organization would not let him give his name.
        Witnesses in many parts of Alexandria said people were  
choking from the tear gas and trying to seal their apartments from
it.
        Poll monitors and human rights groups said the violence,  
coupled with wide-scale arrests, contributed to poor turnout across
the country.
        Egypt’s elections began Nov. 9 and conclude Dec. 1, with a  
third-stage runoff likely six days later.
        The first stage of voting was mainly peaceful, but violence  
and police interference increased dramatically after the
Brotherhood’s strong showing. At least one person died in violence
in Nov. 20 voting; hundreds have been wounded in melees. Most
credible reports blame security forces and the NDP.
        The Muslim Brotherhood was banned in 1954 and later that  
year accused of trying to assassinate then-Interior Minister Gamal
Abdel Nasser, who became president in 1956. It renounced violence in
the 1970s and eludes the ban on its activities by fielding
candidates as independents.
        The Brotherhood’s platform is based on a vague call for the  
implementation of Islamic law in the Arab world’s largest nation. It
advocates the veil for women and campaigns against perceived
immorality in the media, but the group insists it represents a more
moderate face of Islam than that followed in deeply conservative
Saudi Arabia.


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