80 Percent of Egypt Seats to Go to Run-Off
Friday, November 11,2005 00:00

80 Percent of Egypt Seats to Go to Run-Off


Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Egypt’s ruling party secured the most seats in the first stage of parliamentary balloting, but the banned Muslim Brotherhood made its mark as well, sending 42 candidates to run-off elections.

Run-offs will be needed for about 80 percent of the 164 seats, making it too soon to gauge the outcome of Wednesday’s first stage of the three-part vote, seen as a test of President Hosni Mubarak’s pledges of electoral reform.

According to official but incomplete results announced Thursday by the election committee, the ruling National Democratic Party won 24 seats and the Muslim Brotherhood took three. Final results were expected Friday.

The opposition said there were widespread irregularities at the polls, which were hailed by official state media as Egypt’s freest balloting in decades.

``Thugs are in control, low turnout and outrageous forging incidents,’’ complained a headline in al-Wafd newspaper, mouthpiece of the liberal party of the same name.

The state-owned Al-Ahram countered: ``The most free parliament elections in 50 years.’’ Al-Gomhuria, another government paper, proclaimed: ``Egyptians chose democracy, not slogans.’’

On Wednesday, 1,635 candidates in eight provinces and 82 constituencies competed for 164 seats.

The large number of run-offs did not necessarily reflect the strength of the opposition, however, as many of the 1,300 independent run-off candidates are loyal to the ruling party.

Ruling party winners included Housing Minister Mohammed Ibrahim Suleiman, Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali and other key party figures. The party will have 113 candidates in the run-off.

National Democratic Party candidate and former state security officer Yehia Wahdan won the seat of Ayman Nour, the Al-Ghad party leader. Nour became the country’s best-known opposition figure when he was detained on forgery charges earlier this year; he was the key challenger to Mubarak in September’s presidential election.

Nour stole the seat from Wahdan five years ago, and the National Democratic Party led a tough campaign to oust him. During counting Wednesday night, Nour accused police of intimidating people not to vote for him and said his opponent’s campaign bribed voters and stuffed ballot boxes.

The other three decided seats went to candidates supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic movement that was given surprising government leeway to field 51 candidates in the first round and run a strong campaign.

``The group’s performance was distinguished and good in all constituencies, but of course the violations that took place prevented us from winning more seats,’’ said deputy Brotherhood leader Mohammed Habib.

He alleged that government authorities had expelled some candidates’ representatives from polling stations and replaced some ballot boxes.

The Brotherhood has 15 seats in the outgoing 455 seat parliament and fielded 150 candidates overall.

The Opposition Front, an alliance of 10 political parties and movements, did not win any seats in the first round. Five of its 90 candidates are in run-offs.

The results revealed the weakness of traditional opposition parties, even after they united against Mubarak’s party, which has been in power since 1979.

The Brotherhood did score a victory on the eve of the elections, when an administrative court ruled its controversial campaign slogan, ``Islam is the solution,’’ did not contradict Egypt’s constitution - which specifies Islam as the state’s religion.

The National Democratic Party had complained to the election commission about the slogan, as the government does not permit parties with a religious platform.

The three-stage elections allow for runoffs to be held six days later in cases where no candidate receives more than half the vote. The second stage is scheduled for Nov. 20 and the third stage for Dec. 1.