MB , Doubles Egypt Seats

CAIRO, Egypt – The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s leading  
Islamic group, more than doubled its legislative representation in
runoff parliamentary elections, according to initial results
announced Wednesday.
        The fundamentalist group won 34 seats in the first round,  
while the ruling National Democratic Party won around 70 seats,
after a runoff vote Tuesday. The results were reported by the
semiofficial Middle East News Agency, quoting judges in counting
        The result was “a shock,” said Abdel Gelil  
el-Sharnoubi, editor of the Brotherhood’s Web site. “I’m now
praying to God to protect us from future government wrath.”
        As a banned organization, the Brotherhood is not allowed to  
run as a political party, but it fields candidates who stand as
independents. It had 15 members in the outgoing parliament.
        The group, which was founded in 1928 and banned since 1954,  
calls for implementing Islamic law but has long been vague about
what this means. 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 than the puritanical Wahhabi version that dominates
Saudi Arabia. In the past year, they have presented themselves as
advocates of democratic reform and have tried to reach out to
Christians, though most in Egypt’s Christian minority oppose them.
        The government generally tolerates the group, which  
renounced violence in the 1970s, but hundreds of members have been
detained in recent months amid increased protests against President
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s leader for 24 years.
        The NDP’s tally was likely to rise, since many of the 50  
independents who won Tuesday are former party members who stood
alone after failing to win the party’s nomination. Such independents
usually rejoin the party at the end of the elections.
        Other opposition parties and groups scored eight seats, MENA  
        The ruling party was not expected to lose its long-held  
majority in the 454-seat parliament. The elections are seen as a
gauge of how far Mubarak is prepared to go toward opening up the
political system. During the past two years, the United States has
increased pressure on the president to liberalize his authoritarian
        The runoffs – which were marred by scattered violence and  
fraud allegations – were called to decide the 133 seats in races in
which no candidate won more than half the vote in Nov. 9 polls, the
first round in the elections held over four weeks.
        In the seats decided Nov. 9, the NDP won 26, the Brotherhood  
4 and an independent one. Tuesday’s voting added 50 more for the NDP
and 30 more for the Brotherhood.
        The Brotherhood is fielding about 100 candidates in the  
second and third rounds of the elections scheduled for Sunday and
Dec. 1.
        An analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and  
Strategic Studies, Amr Choubaki, said he did not expect the
Brotherhood to fare so well.
        “I expected them to be the biggest opposition bloc in  
parliament, but not to win 34 seats in the first round,”
Choubaki said.
        Angry supporters of an independent candidate torched the  
headquarters of the ruling party in the low-income district of
Imbaba, Cairo, after hearing that their man had lost, police said.
        The supporters of Abdel Moneim Emara toured the neighborhood  
chanting: “I swear by Egypt’s sky and soil, the NDP has ruined
        Police said two people were arrested for allegedly burning  
the NDP headquarters and two other suspected arsonists were being
sought. Police said 21 others were arrested since Tuesday for
suspicion of intimidating voters and acts of sabotage.
        Human rights groups and election monitors reported  
widespread irregularities, including ruling party supporters
attacking and intimidating opposition supporters at polling stations
and busing in voters from outside the constituency.
        “Hired thugs are targeting primarily supporters of  
Muslim Brotherhood candidates,” the Independent Committee on
Election Monitoring said in a statement Tuesday.
        The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said it saw  
“increasing instances of election bribes … collective voting,
and in some cases assaults on voters for not supporting NDP
        But the elections were a step forward in that they marked  
the first time Egyptian monitors have been allowed inside polling
and counting stations.