Egyptians vote in run-off without opposition parties

Egypt held runoff parliamentary elections after the two main opposition groups decided to boycott in protest of alleged fraud in the first round.

Egyptians vote in run-off without opposition parties

Egypt held runoff parliamentary elections Sunday that are certain to hand President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party a crushing victory after the two main opposition groups decided to boycott in protest of alleged fraud in the first round.

With a large-scale crackdown that included arrest sweeps, Egypt's ruling establishment appeared determined to purge the largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, from the next legislature. The aim seems to be to ensure the Brotherhood cannot use parliament as a platform for dissent amid uncertainty over the country's future and in the lead-up to next year's more crucial presidential elections.

State television reported that polls opened at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT). Polling stations close at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT).

"No opposition party"


Both the Brotherhood and the other key opposition group, the liberal Wafd party, boycotted Sunday's runoffs. As a result, most of the contests now pit rival candidates from Mubarak's National Democratic Party against each other, ensuring a parliament almost entirely made up of the ruling party, with a few seats going to independents and smaller parties.

"NDP versus NDP," said the headline in the Wafd party's newspaper.

The Brotherhood, the biggest opposition group with a fifth of seats in the outgoing parliament, won no seats in the first round. Wafd won two. Egyptian monitors cited ballot box stuffing, voter intimidation by hired thugs and other abuses.

"I am boycotting these elections. They are a sham, anyone can see that," said Mansour Abdel-Fattah, 22, a Brotherhood supporter from the Delta city of Mansoura.

"I applaud the Brotherhood's decision to boycott, of course, Wafd as well," Abdel-Fattah said in Cairo. He said he would not travel home to vote, as he did in the first round.

Officials said voting on Nov. 28 was fair, and any complaints were being checked but did not undermine the vote.

Egypt's High Administrative Court on Saturday criticised the election commission for allowing elections to proceed in 24 districts last week despite court rulings halting them after many opposition candidates complained of being disqualified.

The court said in a statement: "The High Elections Commission's non-implementation of previous rulings nullifies the results (in these districts), making the composition of the People's Assembly fraught with the suspicion of invalidity."

"The first round showed the government was not going to give any space to the opposition. The new people's assembly is not for the people. It is simply another NDP committee with a single purpose: securing presidential succession in the 2011 vote," Wafd party member Ashraf Balbaa told Reuters.

Officials suggest Mubarak, whose health has been under close scrutiny since gallbladder surgery in March, will extend his three-decade rule by seeking another six-year term, if he can.

If not, many Egyptians say his son will run. But analysts question whether Gamal, 46, has the popularity among the masses, many in dire poverty, or military support to take over.

The scale of the government's first-round win last Sunday was a surprise. Political analysts had expected the Brotherhood to pick up at least some seats. Other opposition parties and independents won just 12 seats. The NDP won 209.

The United States said it was "disappointed" by the conduct of the vote.

Of the original 508 seats up for grabs, there are run-offs for 283 seats where no candidate won outright first time around.

In many seats, NDP candidates are pitted against each other as the ruling party fielded many more candidates than seats for this election, partly in bid to squeeze the Brotherhood.


Agencies

Last Mod: 05 Aralık 2010, 14:55
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