Egypt Judges Cancel Voting Over Police Interference
|Saturday, November 26,2005 00:00|
|By (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies)|
Egypt Judges Cancel Voting Over Police Interference
Egyptian judges said Saturday, November 26, they have cancelled voting in some constituencies in protest at flagrant police interference in the run-offs of the second phase of the country’s month-long parliamentary elections.
Judge Hisham Bastawisi, the deputy head of the Court of Cassation, told Al-Jazeera satellite channel the move came after security forces prevented voters from casting their ballots.
"State security officers verbally attacked judges who tried to intervene to allow voters to enter polling stations... Judges have already closed polling stations and cancelled the elections in Rashid and Kafr El-Dawar," added the senior judge.
President of Judges Union Zakariya Abdel Aziz has earlier told reporters that judges agreed ahead of Saturday’s polls to cancel voting if irregularities took place.
He demanded judges supervising the elections to declare final results publicly to avoid the Damanhur constituency scenario, when NDP candidate Mostafa Al-Fiqi emerged victorious despite initial results published by newspapers gave landslide victory to Muslim Brotherhood candidate Gamal Hishmat.
The incident developed into a full-scale scandal to the NDP when Judge Noha El-Zeini stood up and be counted, giving her testimony in an open-letter to the mass-circulation Al-Masri Al-Yom daily.
The first round of the second phase, which took place in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and other Nile Delta governorates last Sunday, saw a surge in violence that saw one person killed.
According to IslamOnline.net’s correspondent, thugs hired by the NDP blocked access to polling stations at directives from police, and confronted Muslim Brotherhood supporters with truncheons and machetes.
The Brotherhood is contesting 41 of the 121 seats at stake on Saturday, mostly in direct competition with President Hosni Mubarak’s NDP.
Voters and election monitors said policemen have turned into "bandits" and polling stations become off-limits to voters.
In the Ghorbal district, where the contest is between the NDP and a Brotherhood candidate, police closed off all roads leading to one polling station for the first few hours. They later let one person through every 15 minutes, according to Reuters.
An NDP organizer, who asked not to be identified, said: "The polling station is closed because this area is popular with the Brotherhood. If we open, they will come and make problems."
Sharif Haroun, a lawyer with the Brotherhood candidate, said: "The situation is the same in a lot of polling stations in the area. Police have surrounded them to prevent voters from entering. Then they let people in bit by bit to make it look like the turn-out is much lower here."
One man said he had been standing in line to vote for more than two hours.
"I’ve been waiting since eight. They don’t want us to vote. They want to cast our votes for us, so the NDP candidate can win," said the man, who declined to be named.
In the Nile Delta village of Hayatim, men armed with machetes and clubs attacked Muslim Brotherhood organizers outside polling stations, helping to frighten off people who wanted to vote in the parliamentary elections, according to witnesses and election monitors.
Brotherhood campaign worker Mahmoud Mohamed, one of several injured people taken to hospital in Hayatim, said he was standing outside a voting station when three men attacked him.
"I raised a chair to defend myself but I was hit on the head and shoulder," he told Reuters. His head was bandaged.
Another Brotherhood activist, Hani Mansour, was lying next to him in hospital with eight stitches in his head.
In Kafr Shukr constituency, north of Cairo, a judge ordered the polling station to be closed after thugs intimidated supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Taymour Abdel Ghani with machetes and knives, according to IslamOnline.net’s correspondent.
Four people were rushed to hospital in critical condition. The Muslim Brotherhood pointed the finger this time at the leftist Al-Tagamu party.
In Saft Turab constituency, in the northwestern governorate of Al-Gharabiya, NDP thugs have forced the judge supervising voting to close the polling station and suspend election sine die.
Police have further continued mass arrests of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, arresting at least 244 people during and before Saturday’s polls.
Police picked up about 59 Brotherhood organizers in dawn raids in Alexandria before voting started, security sources told Reuters.
The Brotherhood said police detained at least 82 supporters outside polling stations in the morning.
Despite the new wave of arrests, the Muslim Brotherhood, the officially banned but tolerated group, said it was determined to continue its unprecedented surge.
The NDP only garnered eight seats while the Brotherhood won 13 outright, bringing its tally half-way through the polls to 47, trebling the number of MPs it had in the outgoing parliament.
"The NDP is determined to win two-thirds of parliamentary seats and will do so by hook or by crook. This being the case, we can expect further violence and chaos in the next stage of the elections," respectable commentator Salama Ahmed Salama said in an Al-Ahram newspaper.
The NDP’s dominance in parliament is not at risk, but the seemingly inexorable rise of the Brotherhood has thrown the issue of their legalization as a party wide open.
The third and last phase of the parliamentary elections will kick off on December 1, with runoffs to be held six days later.