Mubarak’s party poised for Egypt poll triumph

Mubarak’s party poised for Egypt poll triumph

 Egypt awaited the final results on Tuesday of a parliamentary election that is set to deliver sweeping gains for President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party and all but shut out the Islamist opposition.

Rights groups say the vote was marked by widespread violence and fraud, and the White House expressed disappointment at the way the election was conducted, calling reports of numerous irregularities "worrying."

According to government daily Al-Ahram, the National Democratic Party (NDP) won more than 170 of 508 seats in the first round on Sunday while the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s main opposition party, failed to win a single seat outright.

Wafd urged the election commission to delay the announcement of results until it has investigated voting complaints, charging the government had failed to respect "the presidential promise to guarantee transparent elections."

The Islamists threatened to pull out of an election they have already denounced as "rigged and invalid."

"We are studying whether or not to continue" participating, senior Brotherhood member Mohammed Mursi told a news conference in Cairo ahead of next Sunday’s runoff.

Al-Ahram and Al-Masri Al-Yom newspapers said Egypt’s secular opposition only won six seats, three of which went to the liberal Wafd party.

Official results will be announced at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Tuesday, according to the electoral commission.

"An assembly without opposition," ran the headline of the independent daily Al-Shuruk, adding that "the NDP will essentially be competing against itself" in next Sunday’s voting.

Egyptians voted last Sunday for the 508 elected seats in the lower house, or People’s Assembly, many of which were contested by rival candidates of Mubarak’s NDP.

Egyptian monitoring groups reported deadly violence, vote rigging and the intimidation of opposition candidates across the country on election day.

In Washington, White House national security spokesman Mike Hammer said "the United States is disappointed with the conduct during and leading up to Egypt’s November 28 legislative elections."

"The numerous reported irregularities at the polls, the lack of international monitors and the many problems encountered by domestic monitors, and the restrictions on the basic freedoms of association, speech and press in the run-up to the elections are worrying," he added.

Egypt is an ally of the United States and receives billions of dollars in foreign aid from the country.

Cairo insists the vote was fair, although the interior ministry reported at least three people were killed by gunfire in clashes between supporters of rival candidates.

An independent candidate’s son was also killed in Cairo’s Matariya district on Saturday, with his family saying he was stabbed while putting up posters of his father. Police said he was killed in a dispute over a woman.

The Brotherhood, which won 88 seats at the last election in 2005, fielded 130 candidates on Sunday, compared with about 800 for the NDP, after more than a dozen of its candidates were disqualified and at least 1,200 supporters arrested.

The Islamists ignored a call in September to boycott the poll by Egypt’s former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition figure, saying last week that participation was "the only peaceful path to change."

At Tuesday’s news conference announcing their possible withdrawal, Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie said "our duty is to expose injustice and make whatever sacrifices we must."

The Islamists had said earlier that they failed to achieve the simple majority needed to win any seats outright in the first round, and that just 26 of their candidates were sure of making it into Sunday’s run-offs.

Authorities put the election turnout at around 10 million but the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights head, Hafez Abu Saada, said that no more than 15 percent of Egypt’s 41 million registered electors had cast a vote.