Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood opposition group urges boycott of municipal elections

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood opposition group urges boycott of municipal elections

Egypt”s powerful Muslim Brotherhood opposition group urged supporters Monday to boycott municipal elections this week after a government crackdown on its outlawed members.

In a statement issued on its Web site, the group said more than 1,000 of its members and potential candidates were arrested in recent months, including 400 detained since the Brotherhood announced last month that it would take part in Tuesday”s elections.

“We call upon the people to boycott these elections, which have already been fixed before being held,” the statement said.

Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud said that the government had disqualified most of the several hundred Brotherhood members who had registered as candidates, and that in the end only 21 members from the group were allowed to run. He said they would withdraw their candidacy in line with the group”s boycott.

A security official confirmed the disqualifications but said around 30 figures believed to be connected to the Brotherhood were allowed to run. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. The Brotherhood is a banned organization and its candidates run officially as independents, though their allegiances are generally known.

The Brotherhood said the government has ignored “thousands” of court rulings supporting the Brotherhood”s right to field candidates for local offices, and the ruling National Democratic Party has instead obstructed the registration of opposition candidates, it said.

“It is to the extent that we feel we are not competing with a normal party but with a group of corrupt people who are willing to even resort to illegal and unethical means,” the statement said. “The party of corruption and despotism is afraid of any contest.”

The group said the NDP “wants to end the elections with its candidates winning uncontested…turning the election into a farce.”

State-run media reported Monday that about a quarter of the more than 50,000 local council seats across Egypt would not be contested, and thus would stay in the NDP”s control. But the opposition Al-Ahrar daily said about 90 percent of the seats were uncontested.

“We will continue our confrontation of the corruption and suppression and peacefully endeavor to achieve reform and change through constitutional and legal channels,” the group said.

The United States and international human rights groups has criticized the Egyptian government”s crackdown on the Brotherhood, Egypt”s largest opposition group.

The local councils have long been a backbone of support for the NDP, though they previously had little power and their elections were widely ignored. But their importance increased with constitutional amendments passed in 2005 that require presidential candidates to obtain 250 recommendations from parliament and council members to be eligible to run.

The Brotherhood scored surprise victories in 2005 parliament elections that gave it a fifth of the legislature”s 454 seats. The local elections had been scheduled to take place in 2006, but were put off for two years, apparently out of fear of more Brotherhood gains.