Egypt’s Ruling Party Wins 112 Seats

Egypt’s Ruling Party Wins 112 Seats
By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF, Associated Press Writer

Egypt’s ruling party won 112 seats in the first stage of the country’s parliamentary elections, or about 70 percent of those available, according to final results announced Thursday.

Announcing the results, Justice Minister Mahmoud Abu el-Leil also confirmed that the banned Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful Islamic fundamentalist group, more than doubled its presence in parliament, winning 34 seats.

The ruling National Democratic Party acquired 112 seats out of the 164 contested seats in the first round, which entailed an initial vote Nov. 9 then a run-off Tuesday. Independents got 13 seats and three opposition parties won five seats — two each to the centrist Wafd and leftist Tagammu parties and one to the centrist Ghad party.

The second round is to be held Sunday, followed by a final one Dec. 1, to determine the remainder of the 454-member parliament. Each stage is held in a different part of the country.

The NDP holds about 80 percent of seats in the current legislature and is expected to maintain its domination of the body. But the Brotherhood’s strong showing has surprised many and boosts its claims for becoming a legitimate political party, a step the government has long rejected.

Its representation could rise in the upcoming rounds. The Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928 and banned since 1954, holds 15 seats in the outgoing body. Its members run as independents, though their posters bear the Muslim Brotherhood name and slogan.

Results announced Wednesday on the semiofficial news agency MENA said the NDP had won 70 seats in the first round, but that number rose when 42 candidates who ran as independents joined the party immediately after their victories.

Turnout in the Nov. 9 round was 24.9 percent, Abu el-Leil said. Turnout was 23 percent in Tuesday’s run-off, which decided 133 districts where no candidate got a majority of the vote in the initial balloting.

Abu el-Leil acknowledged instances of election bribes and said some candidates bought votes, which he described as “a regrettable phenomenon.” The prosecutor-general is investigating the instances, he said. He said the Higher Election Committee received more than 150 complaints on various election irregularities.

The Muslim Brotherhood calls for implementing Islamic law but has long been vague about this would mean. Its members are conservative — advocating the veil for women and campaigning against perceived immorality in the media, for example. But the group insists it represents a more moderate face of Islam.

Hundreds of its members have been detained in recent months amid increased protests against President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s leader for 24 years.