Several Egyptian human rights groups have criticised the government's refusal to allow them to monitor Tuesday's elections to the upper house of parliament, saying restrictions could lead to election abuses.
The elections for the Shura Council upper house usually have a low voter turnout but could signal what is ahead in elections for the more powerful lower house later this year. Egypt's biggest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, holds 88 seats in the lower house but none in the upper house.
Rights groups often accuse Egypt of election abuses such as vote rigging and state security use of force against voters to prevent them from reaching polling stations. The government says elections are free and fair.
"The refusal of the High Committee for Elections to allow human rights groups to monitor the Shura Council elections indicates the committee is not independent and is subject to the state security apparatus that intervenes to ensure the election outcome is in favour of the ruling party," a statement by a coalition of rights groups said.
A member of the High Committee for Elections rejected the groups' accusations and said sufficient time was given to all rights groups to receive permits to monitor the vote.
"The High Committee for Elections has given permits to 52 rights groups to monitor the polls on June 1st. Those who have not received permits did not apply in time from May 3 to 25," Ahmed Shawoki, a member of the committee told Reuters.
Tuesday's elections will be the first that will be overseen by the new committee. In previous elections, judges supervised voting in every polling station to guarantee fairness.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Badie accused the government's state apparatus of using force to prevent Brotherhood candidates from campaigning.
"State security forces have continued to violate Muslim Brotherhood candidates, taking down their campaigning banners beating and shooting rubber bullets at Brotherhood supporters in several constituencies," Badie said at a conference on Sunday.
How the Brotherhood fares in this vote will be a further indication of what to expect in another election later this year for the lower house of parliament, where the group controls a fifth of seats, the biggest opposition bloc by far.
Half of the 176 electable seats in the upper house, or Shura council, will be contested on Tuesday. The banned Brotherhood ran in the 2008 Shura vote and won no seats. President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party secured almost every seat with one seat going to a leftist opposition party.
The Shura Council, Egypt's upper house, reviews laws before handing them to the lower People's Assembly for a final vote.
ReutersLast Mod: 01 Haziran 2010, 00:42