Egyptians return to polls in run-offsPublished

Egyptians return to polls in run-offsPublished

Doha Time
CAIRO: Egyptians prepared to vote in run-offs yesterday after the first round of parliamentary elections saw Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party confirm its grip on power and the Muslim Brotherhood gain political momentum.

In the first round of the three electoral phases which was held on November 9, heavyweights from the National Democratic Party cruised to re-election amid reports of widespread corruption and vote rigging.

According to the electoral commission, a quarter of the electorate went to the polls for the first round.

Yet after the first of six election days staggered over a month, there was no clear indication on the shape of the next parliament.

According to the Egyptian press, NDP members who ran as independents were brought back into the fold before the run-offs in constituencies where the ruling party’s official candidates made poor first round showings.

Further complicating matters, the results announced in three of the 82 constituencies involved in the first round were annulled on Sunday and will therefore lead to re-runs.

With each of Egypt’s 222 constituencies having its own local dynamic, observers struggled to detect a pattern in the way voters would cast their votes in the run-offs.

Most of the 133 seats to be decided today will pit official NDP candidates against independents, mainly ruling party renegades and Muslim Brothers.

The NDP behemoth currently holds 404 out of 454 seats in parliament and observers have predicted that opposition movements might only make small inroads into its domination.

But the officially banned Muslim Brothers have capitalised on unprecedented freedom to conduct an intensive and well-crafted campaign which they claim should help them treble their current seat tally of 15.

The first round was also marked by the failure of the secular opposition to mount any kind of challenge.

Ghad party leader Ayman Nur, who came second in the presidential election behind Hosni Mubarak, lost in his own Cairo stronghold but filed a complaint alleging vote rigging.

A coalition including the Kefaya (Enough) movement, the Marxist Tagammu, the Nasserists and the liberal Wafd failed to secure a seat in the first round.

Independent monitors, opposition candidates and judges said that besides the corruption which characterises parliamentary campaigns, irregularities included falsified voter registries and ballot-stuffing during the counting process.

Mona Makram Ebeid, the only Coptic woman running in the elections, charged that she had lost in the first round due to cheating by her NDP rival. – AFP
Polls open in runoff elections to decide 133 seats in Egypt’s parliament(Updated 03:31 p.m.)

Polls opened Tuesday in runoff elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic group, is offering the main challenge to the ruling party’s bid to continue dominating Egypt’s parliament.

Voters who cast ballots Tuesday will decide the outcome in 133 seats where no candidate scored more than half the vote in last week’s polling, the first of the three-round elections for parliament.

President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which has dominated parliament for decades, is not expected to lose its majority in the assembly, but opposition parties are hoping to increase their representation. The legislative elections of 2000 resulted in the NDP’s holding 88 percent of the house’s 454 seats.

Analysts see the elections as a test of Mubarak’s repeated pledges to liberalize his autocratic system. But the turnout in the Nov. 9 polls was officially 24.9 percent, indicating that most of the electorate did have faith in the president’s promise that the elections would be “fair and free.”

In Tuesday’s runoffs, about 40 candidates backed by the Muslim Brotherhood stood against those of the ruling party. As the Brotherhood is banned, it is not allowed to run as a party in the elections. But it endorses “independent” candidates who openly declare their allegiance to the group and employ its campaign slogan “Islam is the solution.”

The Brotherhood has enjoyed unusual leeway to campaign in these elections, which the government wants to be seen as a significant step toward democracy. The United States has been pushing Mubarak’s government to open up the political system.

The second round of the elections takes place Nov. 20 and the third round on Dec. 1. The runoffs are held six days after each round.