Runoffs Settle Most Seats in Egypt’s Finale
|Friday, December 2,2005 00:00|
|By (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies)|
Runoffs Settle Most Seats in Egypt’s Finale
CAIRO, December 2, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – Final results of Egypt’s third round of the month-long parliamentary elections were due later Friday, December 2, with semi-final tallies showing almost all 136 seats up for grabs would be settled in runoffs that will see most of the 49 Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidates contesting against a bigger number of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) candidates.
Two opposition political parties’ leaders were also leading in their constituencies in the polls marred by widespread violence, closures of polling stations and barring of voters by police forces.
The first two phases of the month-long elections which kicked off on November 9 already determined 302 of the People’s Assembly’s 454 seats, 10 of which are appointed by the head of state.
The opposition Muslim Brotherhood (MB) already secured 76 seats in the first two rounds -- five times its tally in the outgoing parliament -- and could reach the 100 mark if half of its 49 third-phase candidates win.
The NDP’s dominance in parliament is not at risk but it could scramble to retain the two-thirds majority needed to make changes to the constitution and pass emergency laws.
35 Muslim Brothers
No MB candidate won outright, with 14 candidates declared losers, among them at least two are said by the Muslim Brotherhood Web site to "have been victims of new rigging scandals".
Thirty-five MB candidates were certain to go for runoffs – due Wednesday, December 7 – while fate of one candidate was still unclear.
Some 60 NDP candidates have so far been poised to wait till the decisive runoff day to determine their fate.
Sources close to vote-counting in most constituencies in the nine governorates that witnessed the third round of voting Thursday told IOL "most seats will have to wait for runoffs as votes were dispersed among many candidates in all constituencies".
Observers and monitors realized declaring results seemed late this time, with state-run papers shying away Friday from highlighting preliminary results, as was the case with the first two rounds.
Hamdeen Sabahi, founder of Arab Dignity Party (under establishment), and Diaa Edeen Dawood, leader of the Nasserite Party seemed poised to secure a clear victory in their constituencies in Kafr El-Sheikh and Damietta governorates respectively.
Until Friday morning, final results were not declared as thousands of Brotherhood supporters gathered around general electoral committees, awaiting results.
Egyptian voters went to the polling stations Thursday for the third and final phase of parliamentary elections, in which the NDP is seeking to secure a two-third majority of the overall seats and the Muslim Brotherhood hopes to consolidate its newfound electoral strength despite a wave of arrests.
More than 10 million voters were eligible to cast ballot in the final round where some 1,774 candidates ran for the remaining 136 People’s Assembly seats.
The vote took place in nine Egyptian governorates; Kafr El-Sheikh, Dakahlia, Sharkia, Damietta, Sohag, Aswan, the Red Sea, northern and southern Sinai.
The NDP filed 136 candidates and the Muslim Brotherhood filed 49 runners, whereas opposition candidates number 56 and the remaining 1529 are independents.
Female candidates number 28 and these were running in seven governorates. Only three women have made it to parliament so far.
Violence "Concerns" US
The last round turned bloody Thursday after security forces killed one citizen and wounded more than seventy others and blocked thousands of voters from casting their ballot, prompting judges supervising the process to threaten a walk-out.
In the northern Nile Delta town of Baltim, a man identified as Gomaa Saeed Al-Zeftawi, 55, was killed after a tear gas canister hit his chest.
He was a supporter of Hamdeen Sabahi, Arab Dignity party founder, says IslamOnline.net’s correspondent.
But state-run papers – Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhorya – claimed the victim was a supporter of the NDP candidate, adding he was killed by a bullet to his chest, but not saying by who was the killer.
Medical sources and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said Al-Zeftawi was killed by police, who responded to stone-throwing with rubber bullets and eventually live rounds.
A driver of an independent candidate was killed in Alexandria in the second stage of elections.
Using careful language about an important ally, the United States expressed concern about the escalation of violence in Egypt’s final round of elections.
"We are concerned about the violence that has surrounded recent phases of the Egyptian electoral process," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Thursday.
"But these elections are, overall, an important step on Egypt’s path toward democratic reform."
The US administration of President George W. Bush has lobbied Egypt to introduce democratic reform but values the regime of President Hosni Mubarak as a longtime strategic ally in the Middle East.
"There are a lot of different aspects to this relationship ..." a State Department senior official, who asked not to be named, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"We have put at the very near top of our list of our agenda with Egypt democracy," the official said.
"So I don’t try to minimize the importance of democratic efforts in the US Egyptian relationship, but there are also other aspects to it."