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Muslim Brotherhood Claim Egypt Election Rigged
Muslim Brotherhood Claim Egypt Election Rigged
CAIRO -- The initial returns from Egypt’s first-ever presidential election looked exactly like Mohammed Habib had expected them to. After five decades of repression, the leaders of the country’s Islamist movement have learned not to bet on change.
Friday, September 30,2005 11:07
IkhwanWeb

Brotherhood Claim Egypt Election Rigged

CAIRO -- The initial returns from Egypt’s first-ever presidential election looked exactly like Mohammed Habib had expected them to. After five decades of repression, the leaders of the country’s Islamist movement have learned not to bet on change.

Unofficial results that began to trickle out of the country’s election commission yesterday had strongman Hosni Mubarak cruising to a fifth six-year term as Egypt’s leader, capturing somewhere from 78 to 80 per cent of Wednesday’s landmark vote. Though nine other politicians had entered the race for the presidency, the result was only mildly different than past leadership referendums in which Mr. Mubarak was the only candidate on the ballot.

That came as little surprise to Mr. Habib, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group. Banned as a political movement for more than 50 years, the Brotherhood was again forced to play a background role this week, scoffing at claims from the Egyptian government and its allies in Washington that the vote represented the birth of democracy in the country.

Like other opposition figures, including the apparent runner-up, Ayman Nour, who called last night for a rerun of the elections, Mr. Habib charged yesterday that the process was rigged from the beginning to ensure Mr. Mubarak would return to office.


"I can say quite comfortably that if there were pure elections . . . in a climate of real competition, then a fifth term for the President might not have happened," Mr. Habib said in an interview in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters.

Barred from putting its own candidate forward, the Brotherhood urged its members to vote, but didn’t back any candidate. However, it hinted that followers should cast their ballots against the President. "We don’t support dictatorship or oppression," Mr. Habib, a geology professor, said.

Alleging bribery, fraud and voter intimidation, Mr. Nour’s al-Ghad party yesterday asked the Presidential Elections Commission to delay announcing the official results, which are expected today, and to hold the vote again.

Initial figures put turnout at about 30 per cent, a number that seems improbably high given that polling stations in Cairo were close to deserted on Wednesday. There were 32 million eligible voters.

The government, hailing the election as a breakthrough, quickly signalled it wasn’t planning to allow a rerun.

"In general, the election was free and fair, and whatever small incidents took place here or there have no significance on the overall outcome of the election," said Mohammed Kamal, a key player in Mr. Mubarak’s campaign. The Presidential Elections Commission is controlled by Mr. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

While the wrangling over the presidential election continued yesterday, Mr. Habib said the Brotherhood was instead focusing on the parliamentary election scheduled for November, hoping to increase its unofficial tally of 17 seats in the 454-seat assembly. The movement, which has renounced violence as a means of achieving its goals, hopes to eventually establish "a democracy that’s grounded in Islam" in the country.

After running 72 candidates in the 2000 parliamentary vote, the Brotherhood hopes to run double that number this time around. Western diplomats based in Cairo believe it’s likely the Islamists will indeed win more seats in the next parliament.

While the Brotherhood still won’t be able to run under its own banner -- the 17 seats are held by politicians who ran as independents but are known Brotherhood members -- Mr. Habib is hoping that the recent atmosphere of greater political openness holds and that the movement, which he says has "millions" of members, can begin to crawl out of the shadows and play a more open role in Egyptian society.

"It’s a very small hole piercing a very thick wall of autocracy and dictatorship," Mr. Habib said. "We cannot at this moment declare our candidates or their names because of the real fear that they"ll be incarcerated."

Like others, he’s been less impressed with the actual election than with the fact that some tight societal controls have been loosened during the campaign
 


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