Islamists take on Mubarak’s party in Egypt vote

Islamists take on Mubarak’s party in Egypt vote 

CAIRO – Islamists take on Egypt’s ruling party on Tuesday in legislative election run-offs, after showing their strength at the ballot box by securing places in the
second round of voting for dozens of parliamentary seats.

Muslim Brotherhood candidates will compete in head-to-head contests for 42 seats on Tuesday, mostly against members of President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP).

The Brotherhood, officially banned, has made the most of
unusual leeway from the authorities to campaign openly for
parliament, where it says its members will work for political freedoms and to bring legislation into line with Islamic laws.

The Islamist group, one of the world’s oldest, was blocked
from contesting Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential
elections this year by tough terms on candidacy.

But it underlined its status as the strongest opposition to the NDP by winning four seats outright in voting for 164 seats in parliament last week. Its candidates stand as independents to sidestep the ban on the group.

None of the officially recognised, secular opposition
parties won a place. The NDP won 26.

Run-offs between the two top candidates will take place on
Tuesday in a total of 133 seats where nobody won more than 50 prcent of the vote.

The elections for the 444 elected seats in parliament,
dominated by the NDP, end in December.

Deputy Brotherhood leader Mohamed Habib said that in areas
where Islamists are competing against the NDP the authorities were bringing pressure to bear on local leaders to make sure people vote for the ruling party.

Habib said he expected a repetition of violations reported
by opposition and monitoring groups last week, including the mobilization of thousands of state employees to vote NDP.

“Naturally, we expect everything. The same methods, but more fierce,” Habib told Reuters. But the Brotherhood’s progression to 42 run-offs showed its strength.

Judicial supervision
The Brotherhood won 17 seats in Egypt’s last parliamentary
elections in 2000, more than any other opposition bloc, despite the detention of its activists and police blocking supporters from voting.

The police have been more neutral so far in this year’s
elections. But monitoring groups, which are overseeing
parliamentary elections for the first time, have cataloged
dozens of violations by the state in favour of the NDP.

The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) on Tuesday handed a report to the body headed by the justice minister which oversees the elections listing violations including the mass registration of government workers to vote.

Opposition and monitoring groups were blocked from observing the vote count, EOHR said.

The government defends the elections against charges of
rigging by saying they are fully supervised by judges.

But the Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and
Legal Profession said no more than 15 percent of the polling stations last week were overseen by court judges. The voting was mostly overseen by Justice Ministry civil servants, it said.

They are “subordinate to the government and represent it and lack the neutrality of judges of the bench,” it said.

An administrative court on Sunday ordered re-votes for three seats on the grounds candidates had run where they were not qualified to stand. Administrative court rulings are legally binding but the government has ignored them in the past.