Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members clash with police ahead of municipal elections

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members clash with police ahead of municipal elections

Hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt”s most powerful opposition group, staged demonstrations across northern Egypt on Tuesday, accusing the government of preventing them from participating in upcoming municipal elections, security officials and the organization said.

Around 700 demonstrators in Nile Delta city of Tanta city north of Cairo hurled stones at police, who responded by firing tear gas, a security official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Thousands of the group”s candidates were prevented from registering for local council elections set for April 8. Later the group won law suits reversing these decision but the government has refused to implement the verdicts.

Smaller demonstrations took place in the port city of Alexandria and the province of Sharqiya.

The Egyptian authorities have launched a major crackdown on the Brotherhood, putting more than 800 of the group”s members and potential candidates are behind the bars. The arrests have drawn criticism from While House and several international human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch.

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The Brotherhood has been banned in Egypt since 1954 but its members have won parliament seats by running as independents in elections. The group surprised everyone by taking 88 seats in the 454-member parliament in 2005 elections.

The government subsequently postponed 2006 local elections for two years, apparently fearing more Brotherhood gains.

Since registration for local balloting started March 4, few of the 10,000 Brotherhood hopefuls have managed to officially register as candidates.

Local councils have long been dominated by President Hosni Mubarak”s ruling party. Largely ignored in the past, the councils gained new importance after a constitutional amendment in 2005 required presidential candidates to obtain endorsements from 250 parliament and local council members.