Muslim Brotherhood Claims Major Gains

Muslim Brotherhood Claims Major Gains
Hicham Safieddine & Serene Assir, Arab News
CAIRO, 22 November 2005 — Muslim Brotherhood claimed further gains yesterday in the latest round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, maintaining their record-breaking first phase momentum despite widespread voter intimidation and violence.

Some 500 Brotherhood supporters were arrested on Sunday in five of the nine provinces where elections were held. There were reports of intervention by security forces in favor of NDP candidates. “Security forces directly attacked Ikhwan members and supporters,” says Nigad El Borai of the National Coalition for Monitoring Elections on Sunday.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Issam Al-Aryan said yesterday his movement had won at least 13 seats in the second phase of the elections, without runoffs needed, bringing their seat tally to 47, trebling their 2000 score even before the elections’ third and final stage.

While President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) was at no risk of losing power, it looked set to face a real parliamentary opposition for the first time.

Only six NDP candidates won outright in the first round to the Brotherhood’s 13. However dozens of NDP renegades standing as independents are expected to rally to the ruling party once the elections are over. Violence during Sunday’s polling claimed the first victim of the elections, the driver of a candidate whom independent monitoring groups said was beaten to death by NDP members.

The usually peaceful Mediterranean city of Alexandria was the scene of pitched battles between supporters of rival candidates, as clans fought with sticks, knives and guns.

Monitors and opposition candidates reported the intervention of security forces and NDP thugs to block access to polling stations. Mohammed Habib said close to 500 Brotherhood supporters were detained over the weekend. But the Interior Ministry said the performance of the security services “was characterized by neutrality” and put the blame for the violence squarely on the Brotherhood’s shoulders.

“The supporters of some candidates, the majority of which were Islamists, engaged in thuggery, voter intimidation and violence,” it said in a statement. Monitoring groups complained that they had been given less access to the polling process than in previous rounds. The Muslim Brotherhood claimed it would have at least 41 candidates involved in runoffs on Saturday, as the Islamist movement remained on course to clinch a total of 100 seats when the month-long polls wrap up on Dec. 7.