Egypt police arrest 7 in Islamist election protest

Egypt police arrest 7 in Islamist election protest

CAIRO (Reuters) – Police arrested seven Egyptians taking part in a Muslim Brotherhood protest on Friday against what the Islamist opposition group says were rigged legislative elections, a police source said.

The banned but tolerated Brotherhood fielded some 50 candidates as independents in the first round of the elections on Wednesday. Full official results were yet to be announced, but the Brotherhood says it won four seats.

Another 42 of its candidates will go forward to a second round of voting on Tuesday because there was no clear winner in the seats they contested.

The authorities had given the Brotherhood, banned since 1954, unusual leeway ahead of the elections by allowing it to hold rallies and marches and releasing instead of arresting its activists.

But the Islamist group complained of irregularities in the voting, including swapping of ballot boxes and the intimidation of voters by supporters of the ruling National Democratic Party.

“No to rigged elections,” more than 2,000 Brotherhood activists chanted in the protest after Friday prayers in Cairo, witnesses said. A police source said the seven men were arrested for hitting policemen.

The ruling party took an early lead in the first round, securing 24 seats. Voting on Wednesday was for 164 seats, but there was no clear winner in most of the constituencies where second round polls will be held next week.

The commission overseeing the election will announce the final results of the first round later on Friday.

Independent monitoring groups reported election violations including bribery and intimidation of voters.

The Brotherhood is the best organised opposition to the ruling party. It won 17 seats in parliament in 2000, more than any other opposition group, despite the arrest of its activists and police blocking its supporters from voting.

The elections for parliament’s 444 elected seats will finish in December.