• Reports
  • November 22, 2005
  • 2 minutes read

Egypt arrests 450 opposition members

Egypt arrests 450 opposition members
ALEXANDRIA — Police arrested over 450 opposition activists in a crackdown on a group which poses the strongest challenge to the ruling party in Egyptian legislative elections yesterday.

Armed thugs also attacked opposition supporters and blocked them from voting in the second stage of elections which will decide 144 seats in parliament, election monitoring groups said.

Opposition candidates doubled their strength in parliament in the first stage of the elections, winning 21 per cent of the 164 seats contested and underlining the weight of political Islam as Egypt’s biggest opposition force. The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) won 68 per cent of the seats.

The authorities had given the opposition group, banned since 1954, unprecedented leeway in the weeks leading up to the first stage. Leading opposition member Essam El Erian said the authorities had fallen back on their old ways.

“This indicates the lack of any intention by the government or the regime to meet the promises it made to make real political or constitutional changes,” he said.

Violence was limited in the first stage but spread yesterday. Gangs, primarily made up of NDP supporters, controlled access to polling stations and threatened voters, the Independent Committee on Election Monitoring said.

An opposition candidate’s representative was stabbed in the neck in a polling station in Edku on Egypt’s north coast, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) said.

Armed gangs were deployed in opposition strongholds in the northern coastal city of Alexandria to stop voters entering polling stations, an Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights monitor in the area said.