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Low turnout in Egypt elections
Low turnout in Egypt elections
Egyptian police detained independent monitors and barred rights groups from voting stations on Tuesday during local elections which generated little enthusiasm from Egyptians, the groups said.
Friday, May 2,2008 18:20
by Louay Safi Reuters

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CAIRO, April 8 (Reuters) - Egyptian police detained independent monitors and barred rights groups from voting stations on Tuesday during local elections which generated little enthusiasm from Egyptians, the groups said. The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of President Hosni Mubarak won 70 percent of the 52,600 seats by default before polls even opened because they faced no opposition, the state news agency MENA reported. The Muslim Brotherhood, the country"s most powerful opposition group, pulled out of the elections on Monday and called on Egyptians to boycott the polls in protest at the disqualification of most of its candidates by the authorities. [1] CAIRO, April 7 (Reuters) - The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt"s largest opposition force, called on Egyptians on Monday to boycott local council elections due on Tuesday in protest at the disqualification of most of its candidates. The group said its members had received more than 3,000 court rulings recognising their right to stand in the elections, and close to 900 court rulings ordering a halt to the ballots when the government failed to comply. Husain Mohamed Ibrahim, deputy leader of the Brotherhood"s parliamentary block, told Reuters: "There are court rulings that invalidate the president"s call for elections on April 8 in almost half the constituencies. we call on our public to boycott these rigged elections, which the judiciary has already ruled should not be held." "Participating in this farcical theatre would have given it legitimacy," Brotherhood lawmaker Mohamed El-Beltaugi told a news conference to announce the boycott.[2] Cairo, Egypt (AHN) - Egypt"s most powerful and most popular opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has called for a boycott of local elections on Tuesday. The Islamic organization is protesting the disqualification of a majority of their candidates. According to the group, Egyptian courts had issued more than 3,000 rulings that allowed their candidates, who run as independents, to stand for the vote. In a statement from the group"s leaders, they argued that almost 900 rulings have ordered the halt to the election as the government has failed to comply with the courts. The government has dismissed such accusations, asserting that the vote will go on as scheduled. "Participating in this farcical theater would have given it legitimacy," Brotherhood member of Parliament Mohamed El Beltaugi said at a news conference announcing the group"s boycott.[3]

Local council elections in Egypt today are facing the prospect of disruption after the country"s largest opposition group called for them to be boycotted. The Muslim Brotherhood is furious that most of its candidates have been disqualified even though they say they"ve had thousands of court rulings recognising their right to stand. The Brotherhood, which advocates turning Egypt into an Islamic state through the ballot box, bought a newspaper ad, accusing President Hosni Mubarak"s government of preventing nominations and ignoring court rulings in favour of registering those disqualified candidates.[4] MAHALLA EL-KOBRA, Egypt (AP) — Egyptian police attacked protesters who tore down a billboard of President Hosni Mubarak in a northern city Monday in the second day of violence fueled by anger over low wages and rising prices. In another sign of dissatisfaction with the U.S.-backed government, the country"s most powerful opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, said it was reversing a decision to participate in local elections Tuesday because of mass arrests of its members in recent months.[5]

Higher food prices are blamed for getting in line continuously for subsidized bread. Factory workers and professionals have staged demonstrations, while some are threatening strikes over what they deem as inadequate salaries due to the inflation. "We boycott these elections, and our candidates are withdrawing," said Husain Mohamed Ibrahim, a Brotherhood member and the deputy head of the group"s parliamentary bloc. "We call on the Egyptian people to boycott these elections," he said in a press conference here. The group"s decision to boycott was due to bureaucratic hindrances that frustrated its candidates from running in the vote. The Brotherhood also charged the ruling party and authorities with harassment and arrests of its member before the Tuesday polling. The Brotherhood, who is banned in Egypt, had originally planned to run 10,000 candidates for up to 50,000 seats throughout the country"s government, but only 21 of its members were accepted as candidates. Even before the Brotherhood"s withdrawal from the polls, majority of Egyptians weren"t looking forward to Tuesday"s election as casting votes won"t solve their problem """ dramatic rising food prices.[6] The government appears worried by the unrest and lifted import duties on some food items last week in an effort to lower prices. It strongly warned citizens against participating in the strikes and demonstrations, which are illegal in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood said Mubarak"s administration also had arrested more than 1,000 of its members and potential candidates, detaining 400 after the group announced last month that it would take part in Tuesday"s municipal elections. The Brotherhood is a banned organization and its candidates run officially as independents, although their allegiances are generally known. On Monday the group urged supporters to boycott municipal polls, saying on its Web site that the elections "have already been fixed before being held."[5]

President Hosni Mubarak"s ruling National Democratic Party is fielding a candidate for every one of the 52,000 council seats up for grabs. Ninety percent of its candidates are standing unopposed, according to party members. The municipal elections rarely drew fierce competition in the past, but this year"s poll will be the first since a 2005 constitutional amendment requiring independent candidates running for the presidency to secure the backing of municipal councillors. Presidential candidates need the support of at least 10 elected members of every local council in at least 14 provinces for their nomination to stand. While 498 candidates of the Islamist group managed to register, the Brotherhood said on Thursday that the electoral commission would only allow 20 of its members to run. The Brotherhood"s supreme leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef denounced the regime"s "disregard for judicial decisions and the flagrant violation of the constitution and the law regarding Brothers putting forward their candidacy." Ibrahim read a statement from Akef in which he accused the regime of ignoring "1,000 court rulings" that should have forced the authorities to allow Brotherhood candidates to stand. "We will continue to fight politically and legally to invalidate the municipal elections if they are held," Akef said.[7] President Hosni Mubarak"s ruling National Democratic Party has candidates for all 52,000 seats, and will be unopposed in 90% of them, party sources say. Correspondents say Egyptian municipal elections are rarely marked by controversy, but this year"s poll is the first since a constitutional amendment in 2005 which required presidential candidates to secure the backing of local councillors. Other opposition groups complained of obstruction by the government, ranging from bureaucratic hurdles to assaults at registration stations.[8]

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak"s National Democratic Party is understood to be fielding candidates in every one of the available seats. The brotherhood, considered the most powerful opposition group in Egypt, has been banned in Egypt since 1954 but its members have won parliamentary seats as independents in recent elections.[9] President Hosni Mubarak"""s ruling National Democratic Party is expected to win about 90% of the seats after candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood, the country"""s largest opposition group, were barred from running.[10] The ruling National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak has already won 70 percent of the seats by default, after thousands of candidates of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood were disqualified.[11]

Zakariya Mahalawi of the opposition Democratic Front in Mahalla, said: "We were ready to go vote at the polls when we received a phone call from the election committee telling us that 15 candidates from the opposition and independents had been chosen." Banners burned Dr Maged Reda Botros, associate professor in political science at Hilwan University in Cairo, said the "rumour" of a "deal" was probably perpetuated by the Muslim Brotherhood who he claimed were "trying to undermine the legitimacy of the elections". Some workers and residents were arrested after they destroyed a large portrait of President Mubarak and banners of his National Democratic party (NDP).[12] Some 35 million Egyptians are eligible to vote in Tuesday"s elections to choose among 70,000 candidates, most of whom are from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). The Muslim Brotherhood is urging voters to boycott the elections, after many of its candidates were jailed and barred from participating in the race.[13] Lack of a fair choice, economic issues and poverty kept many potential voters away from the ballot boxes on Tuesday, with local media announcing early victory for the uncontested ruling National Democratic Party. Main opposition group, Muslim Brotherhood, pulled out its 30 remaining candidates from the race on Monday and called for a boycott of the vote in objection to the government"s decision to disqualify an estimated 10,000 Brotherhood candidates.[14] "The government has not charged any of the 800 detained Muslim Brotherhood members with actual crimes," director of the Middle East division for Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork said in a statement from the organization. "It should release them now." "The ruling National Democratic Party heavily dominates the local councils, and President Mubarak seems determined to keep it that way, whatever the cost to his government"s legitimacy," Stork said.[15] The Brotherhood said the government has ignored "thousands" of court rulings supporting the Brotherhoods right to field candidates for local offices, and the ruling National Democratic Party has instead obstructed the registration of opposition candidates, it said. "It is to the extent that we feel we are not competing with a normal party but with a group of corrupt people who are willing to even resort to illegal and unethical means," the statement said.[16] "The law is clear on the issue. This is a banned group; hence the government has the right to go after and hold individuals engaging in illegal activities," Gihad Ouda, a senior member of the ruling national Democratic Party, told dpa. Although the movement is still outlawed, its candidates running as independents won 88 seats in the 454-member parliament in the 2005 legislative election.[17] Although the official results will only be announced on Wednesday and over five successive days, the ruling National Democratic Party had already won 70 percent of the 52,000 seats before the polls even opened. The Muslim Brotherhood announced Monday it was going to boycott the election after thousands of its candidates were disqualified from standing.[18]

Reports say voting is sluggish in local elections in Egypt which the government is sure to win. Thousands of council seats are up for grabs in theory, but official media said 70% had already been won by the ruling party as they were unopposed. The polls are being boycotted by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood after thousands of their proposed candidates were barred from standing.[19] The United States and international human rights groups have criticized the Egyptian government"s crackdown on the Brotherhood, Egypt"s largest opposition group. The local councils have long been a backbone of support for the NDP, though they previously had little power and their elections were widely ignored. Their importance increased with constitutional amendments passed in 2005 that require presidential candidates to obtain 250 recommendations from parliament and council members to be eligible to run. Associated Press Writer Maggie Michael contributed to this report from Mahalla, Maamoun Youssef from Cairo.[20] The Brotherhood, which holds a fifth of parliament"s seats, says it had planned to support 10,000 candidates for 52,000 posts on local councils at the town, city and province level across Egypt. Faced with intimidation and bureaucratic technicalities, fewer than two dozen managed to get their names on final election lists. The Brotherhood pulled their candidates from the race and called on Egyptians to boycott the vote, saying that it would not reflect the will of the Egyptian people. "The regime has adopted a strategy to keep us from competing with them in elections """ they decided they would start arresting people, detaining people, and trying some of them in front of military courts," says Mohamed Habib, the group"s deputy leader. "They want to have the security apparatus control the whole country, and put the Brotherhood on the sidelines of political life so it can not be an active participant in it."[21]

The government disqualified an estimated 10,000 candidates from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, prompting the organization to boycott the vote and pull out the 30 that were actually allowed to compete. The Brotherhood, which holds a fifth of parliament"s 454 seats, has successfully contested many of the disqualifications in court, but maintain the government has ignored their legal victories. "We will continue our legal fight to annul the elections and the results and to force the government to start the election procedures from the beginning," leading Brotherhood figure Essam al-Erian told AP. He said the group did not plan any protests on election day. In the southern city of Assiut, election monitors from independent organizations said they were prevented from entering the polling stations, along with TV crews from the local station.[20] Egyptians have begun voting in local elections boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group, after a second day of protests over food prices and poor wages.[12] CAIRO (AFP) — Polls closed with little excitement on Tuesday in Egyptian local elections boycotted by the main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and overshadowed by wage protests in which one teenager has died.[22]

CAIRO -- Amid turmoil and demonstrations over crippling price rises, Egypt went ahead with local elections on Tuesday much to the frustration of activists and the leading opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood.[15] Cairo - Egypt"s Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement will boycott local elections slated to be held Tuesday in response to a government crackdown against its members, the movement said Monday.[17] Cairo, 7 April (AKI) - Egypt"s Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has threatened to boycott Tuesday"s local elections to protest against a crackdown on its members, many of them election candidates.[9]

CAIRO, April 8 (UPI) -- The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt said it called for a boycott of municipal elections amid protests and a government crackdown on candidates.[23] Egypt"s opposition Muslim Brotherhood Monday announced that it would boycott municipal elections set for April 8, saying that the government has continuously blocked the group"s efforts to field candidates in the election.[24] Egypt"s opposition Muslim Brotherhood group says it will boycott municipal elections after being allowed to field 20 candidates for thousands of seats.[8] CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt"s main opposition movement the Muslim Brotherhood said on Monday it will boycott Tuesday"s municipal elections after it was allowed to field only 20 candidates for thousands of seats.[7]

Almost all opposition candidates disqualified, few people seemed to be bothering to vote. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is Egypt"s largest opposition group even though it is officially banned, announced Monday it was boycotting the poll because election officials allowed only 20 of its candidates to register.[25] Turnout at Tuesday"s local council elections in Egypt was poor after the Islamist opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood called for a boycott.[18] Polls open for Egypt"s local council elections with low turnout after the main opposition group, Muslim Brotherhood called for boycott.[14]

Egypt has arrested 34 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including a top decision maker, continuing a crackdown on the country"s most powerful opposition group ahead of this month"s municipal elections.[26] Egypt"s main opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, said on Monday it will boycott Tuesday"s elections, which have been preceded by an intense crackdown on the group with more than 800 members arrested in recent weeks.[27]

Despite some noteworthy achievements, it has remained, in Anani"s words, a "visionary elitist movement" seemingly incapable of rallying significant support on the ground. The alternatives - a political party working for change within the current framework, or attempts to influence the ruling clique from within - have both met with limited success as well. The Democratic Front Party was inaugurated last year to channel support from those disillusioned with the Islamist strand of political opposition, but has since been plagued by partisan disunity. Meanwhile the regime itself seems intent on entrenching itself when confronted with external pressures; despite the work of those seeking to steer it on to a more democratic path, Mubarak remains set on appointing his son as his successor. That leaves the one opposition force in Egyptian society that can draw on a large bank of popular support - the Muslim Brotherhood. Fighting its own battles on a number of fronts - including incessant harassment from the security services - the Brotherhood has an ambiguous relationship with the political left in Egypt, at times standing shoulder to shoulder with them in opposition to Mubarak, and other points attempting to put as much distance between the two as possible. This inconclusive approach can be seen in their response to the Mahalla strike - a long, confusing ramble supporting the right to strike in principle, ending with a warning against the "chaos" that industrial action can cause and an eventual decision not to sponsor this particular action.[28] As many as four activists have died, including a 15-year-old boy, Egyptian bloggers following the events have reported, although the interior ministry has denied the deaths. Police fired tear gas at as many as 7,000 protesters in the northern town Monday evening after citizens trampled and destroyed a picture of President Hosni Mubarak and other symbols of his ruling National Democratic Party. "We are keeping the peace in the face of those who are trying to destroy this country and its reputation," an interior ministry official argued. "Today is another example of Egypt"s democracy and there are people who are trying to ruin that and this is unacceptable, so the security forces have been called to bring peace to Mahalla. Nobody has died and only a few soldiers have been wounded," he added.[15] The vote was a shoo-in for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of President Hosni Mubarak, which fielded a candidate for every one of the 52,000 council seats up for grabs and launched a major crackdown against the opposition.[22] Cairo - Voting for Egyptian local councils got underway on Tuesday with only 1 000 of the councils" 52 000 seats being contested between opposition parties and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).[29] CAIRO, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Egyptians are taking part in local elections Tuesday amid demonstrations against rising prices, low wages and boycotts by opposition groups after a clampdown by the ruling National Democratic Party.[30] Elections in the city were cancelled, and 15 of the 56 local council seats were given to various small opposition parties, while the ruling National Democratic Party took the rest. "The election committee said they just didn"t want any more problems in the city," said Zakariya Mahalawi of the small liberal opposition party, the Democratic Front.[31] Having limited the number of opposition members who are eligible to stand for election, the outcome is all but guaranteed, with the ruling National Democratic Party expected to win at least 90 percent of the seats.[32]

Nationwide, only 30 percent of seats were contested, the official MENA news agency said, paving the way for the ruling party to win 70 percent unopposed. Tarek Zaghloul of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights told AFP that his group had decided not to formally monitor the elections. "We took the decision because of the fact that opposition candidates have had such trouble registering and (the seats) are going straight to the ruling party." Zaghloul said his group had received reports that members of the opposition liberal Al-Wafd party had been banned from entering polling stations to vote, as well as reports of weak turnout. Another organisation, the Egyptian Association for Supporting Democracy (EASD), said its observers were barred from entering polling stations in at least six provinces, and some were detained.[22] Party Deputy Chairman Dr. Mohamed Habib said that the government has ignored court rulings requiring it to allow Muslim Brotherhood candidates to register for candidacy. He further called the elections a "farce" and called for Egyptians to boycott the vote.[24] Abdul-Rahman Mohamed, voting committee head, said that most voters had voted for the NDP. "NDP candidates order their employees to go vote for them. I am sure that most of the voters here came for the NDP," he said. "The voters believe that they are protected by the ruling political party," Mohamed added. Tagamo Candidate Fatema al-Zahraa said that there was a low turnout for Tagamo and for NDP. She stressed that NDP candidates were not leading the elections. She also said their campaigners were not committing violations in the voting process. She said the number of voters was expected to significantly increase by the time polls closed at 7pm. Meanwhile the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement was boycotting the vote in protest against a government crackdown against its candidates.[29] The elections gained an unprecedented importance after a 2005 constitutional amendment requiring independent presidential candidates to secure the backing of councillors. Those not belonging to political parties, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood whose members sit in parliament as independents, need the support of at least 10 local councillors in at least 14 provinces to stand. The next presidential election is set for 2011, with many expecting the veteran 79-year-old Mubarak to stand down in favour of his son and senior NDP member Gamal. The Islamist party had been allowed to field just 21 candidates among some 4,000 they originally put forward after a sweeping government crackdown left many would-be candidates behind bars or barred from registering.[22]

Whenever people gathered in the streets, the security forces intervened. They didn"t want anything to disturb the cemetery-like peace in the Nile city ahead of Tuesday"s local elections. The Mubarak regime is nervous about the elections because of a change in the constitution that could -- at least in theory -- loosen its tight grip on power. Under new legislation, a candidate will be able to stand at the next presidential election in 2011 if he has, among other things, the support of a minimum of 140 local councils. This opens up possibilities for the Muslim Brotherhood, who have long been a thorn in the regime"s side.[18] EGYPTIAN security forces have detained dozens of members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in pre-dawn house raids before local council elections tomorrow.[33]

Of the approximately 5,000 Muslim Brotherhood members who wanted to stand in the local council elections, only 21 were accepted by the election committee as candidates.[18]

More than 800 members of the Muslim Brotherhood group have been arrested in recent weeks. The group says 2,664 of its candidates succeeded in obtaining court rulings ordering authorities to allow them to stand in the local election but the rulings were disregarded.[8] The government postponed local elections for two years in 2006, when the brotherhood unexpectedly won 88 seats in the 454-member parliament the previous year. Since February 2008, the Egyptian government has arrested more than 800 of the group"s members, many of them election candidates.[9] The upcoming local elections had been scheduled to take place in 2006, but were put off for two years, apparently out of fear of more Brotherhood gains. Amnesty International criticised the government on Friday for its crackdown against the Brotherhood ahead of the municipal elections. "Amnesty International is concerned that many of those arrested and detained may be prisoners of conscience held for the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and association," the rights group said in a statement. "Amnesty is calling for those who are being held as prisoners of conscience to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for the Egyptian authorities to lift all other unlawful restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression."[26]

The turnout in Egyptian elections is usually very low, with independent monitors reporting rates down to 3 percent. The Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development said voting had taken place in contested districts, including those where the Brotherhood said it had won court rulings that the elections not take place. "All these rulings were not implemented," Mahmoud Ali, the monitoring group"s coordinator, told Reuters. The Brotherhood said its members had received more than 3,000 court rulings recognising their right to stand in the elections, and close to 900 court rulings ordering a halt to the ballots when the government failed to comply.[1] The Brotherhood also put an advertisement in the daily al-Dustour calling for the boycott. "The Egyptian regime has practiced every kind of obstruction, starting by preventing nominations, detaining more than 900 members of the Muslim Brotherhood and ignoring all the court rulings issued in favour of registering those disqualified (candidates)," the advertisement said.[2]

The Bush Administration considers Egypt as key ally against the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, a once-violent opposition group that has since renounced terror and has numerous representatives in the Egyptian parliament - serving as independents, because the government won"t recognize the Brotherhood as a legitimate political party. The U.S. also considers Egypt - the first Arab nation to recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic relations - as critical to its peace-seeking agenda for a Palestinian state, though to date there is little evidence that it has much real influence on the process.[34] Under Mubarak and his governing National Democratic Party, officials have succeeded in stunting the growth and influence of political opposition. The only opposition group with a broad network and a core constituency is the Muslim Brotherhood, which has little ability to effect political change because its members are routinely arrested and jailed.[35] More than 800 have been arrested. "It looks like the ruling National Democratic Party is not able to compete fairly with the Muslim Brotherhood," the Brotherhood"s Deputy Chairman, Mohammed Habib, tells me. "Therefore it is resorting to odd and exceptional measures."[36] In a statement issued Monday, it accuses the ruling National Democratic Party of trying to prevent thousands of Brotherhood members from running for local offices.[37]

Cairo - Egypt held local elections on Tuesday. It is clear that President Hosni Mubarak"s National Democratic Party will win the elections, as 90 percent of candidates have no opponents.[38] For Exhibit B, please consider Egypt. Hosni Mubarak, president for life, has disallowed 90% of the election candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood party, his only competition. That actually is very similar to what the Islamic Nuts of Iran practice in their "elections", by refusing to allow moderates or liberals to become official candidates. When the overlords of China whine about the Bad Press they are getting, my initial response is simple.[39]

The worker bonuses and other concessions promised to workers by the prime minister show the government"s worry that economic angst could boil over """ a risk the U.N. warns could hit many poor countries as world inflation spirals. The soft approach is in stark contrast to the rough treatment that the quarter-century-old regime of President Hosni Mubarak metes out to its political opponents, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, the country"s most powerful opposition movement.[31] Egypt has virtually no organized political opposition, except the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned and barred from politics. Events Sunday underscored the rise of a potentially more dangerous challenge to the governments monopoly on power: Widespread public outrage and a growing willingness by workers and professionals to press their demands by striking.[35]

Until a few months ago, the only question was whether the reformist instinct that has governed economic matters in recent years would also prevail with regard to the polls by allowing opposition forces to mount a meaningful - if merely symbolic - challenge. That might have helped to release some of the pent-up pressures that are now fueling violent riots over food prices in Egypt. It was not enough for the regime to merely pre-determine its own dominance of the municipal bodies, whose makeup will be crucial to the selection of the next president: Egypt"s rulers took an extra step by guaranteeing that no other forces could so much as put in an appearance. In so doing, they have guaranteed that many Egyptians will assume they are lying when they deny that Mubarak"s son Gamal - an increasingly influential figure in those circles of the NDP that are not beholden to the military - has already been chosen to succeed him. Limited reforms have brought millions of people into Egypt"s economy, making it a certainty that they, and those who want to follow them, would eventually demand a greater political voice. Instead of acceding to the inevitable and recognizing such yearnings as a positive influence for development, the regime has closed the door. Gamal Mubarak had been identified as a champion of the reform process, something that might have eventually endeared him to the population. He will be very hard-pressed to realize such a dividend now, though, because many will see the sham election as evidence that he represents only a step backward.[40] NDP dilemmas. The NDP is unwilling to have its candidates face competition from the MB at a time when its own public image has reached a nadir because of popular anger at high inflation and commodity prices. These have created a shortage of bread that has caused riots (killing 15) and deeply embarrassed the government, which has called upon the army to take over bread distribution. The municipal elections had originally been scheduled for April 2006, but that February, Mubarak postponed them for two years. It was then widely assumed that the regime did not want to risk another Islamist success at the ballot box so soon after the 2005 parliamentary elections and Hamas" victory in the January 2006 Palestinian elections.[41]

The following year, a stronger than anticipated performance by the Muslim Brotherhood in parliamentary elections led the government of Hosni Mubarak to postpone municipal elections until now.[32] The Egyptian government"s main political opponent, the Muslim Brotherhood said Monday that it was going to boycott municipal elections, calling on Egyptians to stay away from Tuesday polls.[6] The man wanted to stand for the Muslim Brotherhood in the municipal elections. He took into account that he would probably be arrested. Then his party threw in the towel, just one day before the election. The Muslim Brotherhood held a press conference on Monday in their headquarters in Cairo"s Manial district to announce a nationwide boycott of the local elections.[18] Twenty-eight members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood were arrested in Egypt over the weekend, ahead of Tuesday"s key local elections. They were accused of belonging to a banned group and possessing anti-government literature.[42] The run-up to Tuesday"s elections has seen one of the most intense crackdowns on members of the Muslim Brotherhood, with more than 800 members of the group arrested in recent weeks. The group has said the government is eager to avoid another electoral setback after the Brotherhood won 20 percent of seats in parliament, where its members sit as independents because of their outlawed status.[7]

Reuters has more. Last week, five Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested as they tried to hang campaign posters, joining the over 800 party members already in custody, including 148 council election candidates.[24] A party must get 10 council members in 14 governorates in order to field a candidate. With the government forbidding Brotherhood candidates to stand for election on Tuesday, the ability for the Islamic group to nominate one of its members for the presidency in three years is greatly weakened.[15]

Since registration for local balloting began March 4, few of the 10,000 Brotherhood hopefuls have managed to officially register as candidates. The Brotherhood is Egypt"s largest opposition group and is banned by the government, but its members have won some parliament seats by running as independents.[37] CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Egyptians largely avoided Tuesday"s local council elections after candidates from the largest opposition group were prevented from running.[20] Turnout has been very light in Egypt"s local council elections as the main opposition group urged its followers to boycott the election when its candidates were disqualified.[25]

Voting in the tense city was canceled and instead 15 of the 56 local council seats were handed out to opposition parties, according to an official government document viewed by The Associated Press. "This morning we were ready to go vote at the polls when we received a phone call from the election committee telling us that 15 candidates from the opposition and independents had been chosen," said Zakariya Mahalawi of the opposition Democratic Front in Mahalla. He added that the committee explained their decision by saying they just did not want any more problems in the city, where authorities say 331 have been arrested and 113 wounded in two days of clashes that saw police firing tear gas at stone-throwing protesters.[20] The local councils have little power, but the Brotherhood -- which advocates turning Egypt into an Islamic state through the ballot box -- would need to have seats on provincial councils if it wanted to field an independent candidate in the next presidential election, set to take place by 2011.[1]

Hundreds of Brotherhood members have been arrested in recent months, and the group was all but completely barred from running in elections held across the country Tuesday for local councils.[31] Local elections are scheduled for Tuesday, and the government has arrested hundreds of Brotherhood members and supporters in advance. The Brotherhood, struggling to regain its footing after the intense and persistent police pressure, distanced itself from the call to strike and said it would not participate.[35] Organisers wanted to protest against the soaring cost of food - and the restriction of opposition candidates in local elections on Tuesday. Four Egyptians give their opinion on Sunday"s attempted strike action - and why they won"t bother voting on Tuesday. It was very strange to see the streets of Cairo so quiet on Sunday.[43] Egyptians have largely stayed away from local elections in which the ruling party was guaranteed victory after many opposition candidates were barred from standing.[44]

In central-Cairo"s conservative Manial neighborhood polling stations appeared largely abandoned. A 23-year-old man named Hani said he had no plans to vote. "Yes I did, in the last election I voted, but this one I do not think I am going to vote," said Hani. "Because I think this time it is not so fair like the other one, so I am not going to vote because I think it is not going to be so fair, so I am not going to participate in it." He did not say what party or candidate he might have supported, but he indicated that whoever it was did not make it onto the ballot. "Because I have heard that they have neglected some candidates and they have removed some names from the list, so I am not going to participate in it," he said. Even people who support the ruling party said they see little reason to vote. A few blocks away, a man who called himself Abu Laila said he was a proud member of the ruling NDP, but had no intention of voting. He said he does not have a voter registration card and does not want one. He said, "Whatever the party wants will happen.[25] In a polling station in the western Nile Delta town of Damanhour, election workers were stuffing voting boxes with votes for NDP candidates, Sayed Qatawi, a candidate for the liberal opposition Wafd Party, told Reuters. A spokesman for Egypt"s Interior Ministry said he had no information about the cases.[1]

Last night, Egypt"s main opposition movement the Muslim Brotherhood said it would boycott municipal elections to be held today after it was allowed to field only 20 candidates.[45] The Muslim Brotherhood had pulled out of the elections and called on Egyptians to boycott the polls in protest at the disqualification and imprisonment of most of its candidates by the authorities.[44]

The Muslim Brotherhood"s boycott could heighten voter apathy in elections overshadowed by discontent over rampant inflation and other economic woes. Factory workers, along with professionals such as teachers and doctors, have staged or threatened strikes and demonstrations over what they say are inadequate salaries, with much of the focus on the rising cost of food.[46] Local elections in Egypt saw a poor turnout Tuesday after the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood called for a boycott.[18] Political repression extends well beyond the orbit of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. More than 800 political dissidents--most of them committed to non-violence--have been arrested in the past six months alone, in the run-up to this week"s local elections.[47]

In 2005, the four-year-old judicial decree allowing Al-Dustour to re-launch was finally implemented. All of this came as a result of pressure exerted on the regime by Washington and other western capitals and international human rights groups. After the U.S. administration was dismayed by the Muslim Brotherhood"s surprise electoral performance in the 2005 parliamentary elections, much of this pressure for political reform evaporated. Despite this retrogression, however, Al-Dustour has continued to publish articles critical of the regime and its policies.[48] "The party of corruption and despotism is afraid of any contest." The United States and international human rights groups have criticized the Egyptian government"s crackdown on the Brotherhood but Washington has exerted little pressure for reform on Mubarak, one its staunchest allies in the Middle East. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday he hadn"t seen reports on Egyptian protesters clashing with security forces but said Washington has "talked to the Egyptian government about the importance of political and economic reform." "We always encourage countries in the region and around the world to do everything that they possibly can.[5] We write about the Brotherhood because it represents the country"s largest opposition force, which holds roughly one-fifth of the seats in parliament. The group is also facing arrest campaigns and military trials, so how can we not write about it? If you"re not covering human rights issue like this, you cannot claim to be a journalist. Of course, this doesn"t mean Al-Dustour is a Brotherhood newspaper: the day after we run an editorial by a Brotherhood official, we"ll run an opinion piece by a socialist leader. IPS: Political commentators have long said that President Mubarak"s son, Gamal, is being groomed to succeed his father as president.[48]

People are worried about that and most don"t care about politics," said Medhat Abdel Nasser, a 20-year-old student, who walked by a polling station in Cairo without a pause. The election underlined the government"s ability to force out its top political competitor, the Brotherhood, which shocked authorities in 2005 with big victories in parliament elections that gave the group a fifth of the legislature"s seats.[31] Fearing a repeat of the Brotherhood"s surprising 2005 victory, the government has rounded up at least 800 members of the movement across the country since February. "It seems that there has been a tacit decision by the government to bar the Muslim Brotherhood from any political activities since the 2005 legislative elections," said Khalil al-Anani, a political analyst at the al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies.[17] The government defended its campaign against the movement ahead of elections, saying the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood was legally banned from political participation.[17]

The Muslim Brotherhood and perhaps other opposition groups might use the bread crisis, the rising prices of essential commodities, and the low wages to get back at the NDP and its government. The NDP might employ the rhetoric of promises of solving these problems for the public, and point out that the current economic crisis is international in nature and extends far beyond Egyptian borders.[49] "The Muslim Brotherhood is the biggest and most important opposition group in the country, so the government is interested in containing and controlling it."[42] At the center of the crackdown were the arrests over the past several weeks of 1,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country"s main opposition group.[21]

Around 1,000 members of the banned opposition party Muslim Brotherhood were reported to have been arrested leaving only around 21 candidates eligible to register for the polls compared with about 4,000 originally put forward.[30] Henchmen Although obstacles to becoming a candidate may have been in the path of all opposition parties, they particularly concentrated on hampering the fundamental but non-violent Muslim Brotherhood. Any Muslim Brothers wanting to become a candidate were picked up or had their way blocked to the registration office by hired henchmen. Others were not able to obtain the required proof of a clean criminal record from the police or were arrested on the spot.[50]

The movement plans to challenge the validity of the elections in court. The NDP fears the Muslim Brotherhood will be victorious in these elections, since the Brotherhood made considerable gains in the 2005 legislative elections. Muslim Brotherhood candidates were fielded as independents in those elections and won more than a fifth of the seats.[13] The government feared that the Islamist organization might chalk up a significant victory like it did in the 2005 legislative elections, when the brotherhood won 20% of the seats. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a boycott of this election, and preliminary reports indicate a low turnout.[10] The Muslim Brotherhood, the country"s biggest opposition movement, decided on Monday to boycott the elections.[38]

"We were forced to withdraw," said Ibrahim Hussein, floor leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian parliament. "We have an obligation to the nation, to the patient people who have already lost everything: their pride, their rights, their freedom," he continued. Therefore, he explained, the Brotherhood had decided "not to participate in the elections, irrespective of the consequences."[18] Muslim Brotherhood members officially run as independents in elections as the organization has been banned in Egypt since 1954.[24] Go ahead walk, protest for yourself, it is good for you to lower your sugar and reduce your big belly. Once again this article demonstrates the utter lack of intellectual depth of many expatriate Ethiopians. They live in their unreal world reminiscent of their high school or college days in Ethiopia when student demonstrations and mouthing of Marxist mambo jumbo was all that you need to be an acclaimed intellectual. In this article Ethiopians in Ethiopia find themselves being asked to follow the example of the Muslim brotherhood of Egypt in attempting to generate positive change in Ethiopia. For those who don"t know them please note that the Muslim brotherhood is not an organization as innocent as their name. They have been rejected wholesale by all moderate Muslims for over fifty years because of their rabid fundamentalism that promoted violence not only on non Muslims, like Coptic Christians of Egypt, but also against moderate Muslims as well. Their leader in exile is none other than the same, Al Qaeda"s deputy leader, Dr. Aymen al-Zawahri hiding with Osama ben-Laden in Afghanistan. He was in the news not more than a year ago asking the Muslims of the world to do jihad on Ethiopia. That is also the same Dr. Death who led the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. I don"t wish to single out Ato Tedla Asfaw but I have to say that we see in embarrassing regularity the narrow mindedness of so called intellectuals in assessing the reality of today"s Ethiopia when they prescribe useless solutions for the masses that are meaningless and irrational.[51] Now out of all the misery you put through our country and society, you are telling us to walk and march like an Egyptians?!! Good Lord!, where did you guys come from?, where did you guys grew up, which society did come out of!while I totally agree with you that, the president of Egypt Mobarak is a tyrant, so is the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, in which the writer of this article is talking about, and ask us to look at as an ideal example to follow there way, as well as to walk like them and march like them. For those of you vermins, and the illiterate of Ethiopian history, I have something to tell you and that is, there are millions of Muslim Amharas in our country as well as with in other ethnics of our society and therefore, I have no issues with the religions of Ethiopia, including Islam, as has been said by our forefathers "HAGER YE-GARA NEW, HAY-MANOT YE-GIL-NEEW", and I am a die hard believer of this factual saying.[51]

Today bread is once again scarce in Egypt and the prices of rice and cooking oil have nearly doubled in the past few months. This time, however, the authorities wanted to nip the protests in the bud. For this reason, the authorities prohibited the general strike in Cairo, which had been called by the grassroots democratic alliance "Kefaya", various leftist parties and, initially, the well-organized Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.[18] "The Muslim Brotherhood is a challenge to the civic state of Egypt," comments Abdel Moneim Said, head of the al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. "It is an illegal organisation which wants to establish a religious state in Egypt. It is not part of the democratic game." Back in his office, Mr Habib waves a red fly swat as if brushing away such claims. "We are strongly represented as a political party across Egypt," he says.[36]

Mubarak"s regime arrested hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members and allowed only 20 of the group"s activists to campaign for the 52,000 seats up for grabs.[10] In a statement issued on its Web site, the group said more than 1,000 of its members and potential candidates were arrested in recent months, including 400 detained since the Brotherhood announced last month that it would take part in Tuesdays elections. "We call upon the people to boycott these elections, which have already been fixed before being held," the statement said.[16] "We have decided to boycott the municipal elections, to withdraw our candidates and to appeal to the people not to vote," the deputy head of the Brotherhood"s bloc in parliament Hussein Ibrahim said on Monday. He said the authorities had used "illegal and immoral means" to exclude Brotherhood candidates, including "the arrest of 1,000 members, administrative obstacles to candidates registering and using prisoners as hostages."[22] The Brotherhood called for a boycott of the vote - but the BBC"s Heba Saleh in Cairo says it will be hard to gauge if the call is being heeded as turnout is usually very low anyway. In previous times, municipal elections were rarely marked by controversy, but this year"s poll is the first since a constitutional amendment in 2005 which required presidential candidates to secure the backing of local councillors.[19]

"We have decided to boycott the municipal elections, to withdraw our candidates and to appeal to the people not to vote," a spokesman for the party has been quoted as saying.[30]

Egypt"s largest opposition group is urging voters to boycott the municipal elections taking place on Tuesday on the grounds that they are being rigged by the ruling party.[13] The pre-dawn raids were the latest in a series of arrests of Brotherhood members, which critics say are part of the ruling party"s efforts to limit the Brotherhood"s gains in the elections. Those arrested on Saturday included two would-be candidates in Tuesday"s poll.[42] Hundreds of Brotherhood members have been arrested, and thousands of candidates from the group prevented from registering for the upcoming contests. Although the Brotherhood is banned, its candidates run in elections as independents.[26]

Voting went on amid little doubt the NDP would dominate. The government has a candidate in each of the 52,000 posts while the popular Brotherhood was allowed only 21 of their original 4,000 candidates due to arrests of hundreds of its members, government crackdowns and the inability to register for the election.[15] The Egyptian Government also warned of harsh action against anyone who joined a strike planned for last night. The Brotherhood said the Government had obstructed its members" attempts to register as candidates, a claim on which Egyptian officials have repeatedly declined to comment.[33]

In the run-up to Tuesday"s local council elections, the Egyptian regime has left little to chance. It has made it almost impossible for members of opposition movements to register as candidates.[50] The country has made important strides in terms of economic reforms over the past few years, winning plaudits from international financial institutions for the thoroughness with which it has rooted out the bureaucratic weeds that had long prevented the development of a vibrant private sector. Unfortunately, this process has yet to yield much in the way of practical benefits for those tens of millions of Egyptians who continue to wallow in poverty: They continue to suffer the tragedy of not being able to feed their families and the indignity of not having a genuine say in how they are governed. Instead of recognizing the legitimacy of the grievances fed by such shortcomings, President Hosni Mubarak and his government have chosen instead to regard the symptoms as threats to their rule. Accordingly, they have stopped at nothing in order to silence the opposition, including a shameless crackdown ahead of the "elections" to local councils which were staged on Monday.[40] In ensuing violence, thousands of demonstrators torched buildings, looted shops and clashed with police, and there were further protests on Monday, when protesters tore down a billboard picturing President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian government has promised to increase salaries and has extended its food subsidy programme to include an additional 15 million people.[19] Protesters tear down a poster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during anti government protests in the city of Mahalla, Egypt, Monday, April 7, 2008.[5]

Not able to suppress the protests that followed, Mubarak"s security forces used rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition against the people of Mahalla, leaving at least four dead, including a nine year old boy, and hundreds injured. As fighters in this struggle, the Center for Socialist Studies, calls on all activists and supporters of freedom and justice everywhere in the world to support us in our fight. The inspirational fight of the Egyptian working class over the past 18 months, which culminated in the mass protests of this month, and the terrified reactions of the Mubarak regime, have proved our faith in the centrality of the working class to liberate Egypt from dictatorship and exploitation.[52] Egyptians are well accustomed to the annual sandstorm, which usually heralds the onset of summer, but a less familiar sight loomed out from the haze: lines of armed riot police occupying the central square and surrounding streets. Chillingly, each platoon was accompanied by a gang of plainclothes men - thugs from the security services who, unimpeded by a uniform, have a long record of attacking civilian demonstrators crossing their path. This show of strength from the beleaguered Mubarak regime comes in response to calls for a national day of protest against the government.[28]

The Islamist movement was officially banned in 1954, but the government and the ruling National Democratic Party tolerate it to some extent. "These arrests are a typical practice in the Egyptian system," Usama Harb, president of the opposition Democratic Front Party, told The Media Line.[42] Through a cynical campaign of hundreds of arrests and various other tactics of brazen intimidation, viable alternatives to Mubarak"s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) were prevented from mounting challenges in more than a tiny fraction of the 52,000 seats. It was no surprise, therefore, that most Egyptians expressed their opinion on the farcical proceedings by staying away.[40] Attar claimed that the demonstrators were "provoked" by the presence of large number of security forces in Mahallah. Demonstrators destroyed a large portrait of President Hosni Mubarak as well as banners of his ruling National Democratic Party, which were put up in anticipation of Tuesday"s municipal polls.[27] The ruling National Democrat Party of President Hosni Mubarak is fielding candidates in all constituencies.[50]

Hardly anyone came. In Cairo"s Manyal neighborhood, many residents said they did not realize there was an election. Among those who were aware, many said voting was useless, with candidates loyal to President Hosni Mubarak running unopposed in 90 percent of the races. "I voted last time but this time I won"t because I don"t think it is going to be fair," says Hany, a young man who declined to give his last name. "It makes all of us feel like the government is only doing what it wants, and doesn"t care about what we want."[21] WHATEVER THE ACTUAL results of Egypt"s municipal elections yesterday, the fix is in: President Hosni Mubarak made sure that even the most moderate and reform-minded candidates would be shut out of the process.[47]

President Hosni Mubarak"s party has taken around 70% of the 52,000 council seats uncontested after a crackdown prior to voting left many opposition candidates under arrest or prevented from registering due to bureaucratic obstacles.[30] The Brotherhood says it was allowed to field only 20 candidates while Mubarak"s ruling party is fielding a candidate for every one of the 52,000 council seats up for grabs.[27]

The local councils have little power, but the Brotherhood would need to have seats on provincial councils if it ever wanted to field an independent candidate for the Egyptian presidency.[2] The demands of the Muslim Brotherhood may not resonate with the public if the group"s goal is merely to win seats, whether in Parliament, local councils, or professional syndicates.[49]

Ahead of the local council vote, hundreds of Brotherhood members were arrested, and nearly 10,000 Brotherhood candidates were rejected or not allowed to register as candidates.[31] Photo: An electoral official casts the vote of an Egyptian woman who could not reach the top of the ballot box, as Egypt holds local council elections, in the Bab Sharia area of downtown Cairo.[10] Courts across Egypt also called for the election itself to be stopped due to the likelihood it would not be fair, thereby nullifying the results. "Therefore there is no competition, and from that point we are boycotting and we are asking people to boycott," Badr added. Although the local councils have little power, they are key in determining who can stand in the 2011 presidential campaign.[15] There is no way to compare the public concern in Egypt with solving the bread problem and their interest in following the local councils elections scheduled for next Tuesday.[49]

The local councils have little power, but the Brotherhood, which wants to turn Egypt into an Islamic state via the ballot box, is obliged to have local representation if it wants to contest the next presidential elections in 2011.[11]

Local council elections have taken on a new significance since the constitution was amended last year, requiring any independent candidate for president to have the support of at least 140 local councilors.[25] Local elections have acquired new significance after a constitutional amendment in 2005 made presidential candidacy conditional on gaining the endorsements of 250 members of parliament and local councils.[17]

Nowadays the Islamist organisation - which is officially banned - has more reason than usual to keep a low profile. In recent weeks the Egyptian government has stepped up its crackdown on members ahead of local elections on 8 April.[36]

The authorities have disqualified all but 21 of several thousand candidates the Brotherhood wanted to field in the local elections, where 52,600 seats are at stake.[2] Myself, I am a member of the NDP, and I support the NDP, but I do not like voting and chaos and all that stuff." He said he has been disillusioned by previous elections where candidates have promised a lot during the campaign but then failed to deliver. He said, "As soon as they get their seat, they just. forget about us, and we do not see them after the elections." He gestures dismissively at a nearby wall, where the faces of local candidates peer out from election posters, all bearing the ruling-party logo. He said, "Ask anyone, do you know who your representative is? And they will say no, we do not know him, we just see his picture on the walls."[25] NDP discipline. The 2005 elections had shown that the NDP faced internal discipline problems, since most of the seats that make up its parliamentary majority of 72% were actually won by members who ran as independents against the candidate officially chosen by party leadership. To read an extended version of this article, log on to Oxford Analytica"s Web site.[41]

"The party of corruption and despotism is afraid of any contest." The group said the NDP "wants to end the elections with its candidates winning uncontested. turning the election into a farce."[16]

The brotherhood, considered the world"s largest Islamist group, has claimed only 20 candidates will be allowed to run for 52,000 seats in cities, towns, and villages in elections across the country.[9] In 2005, Brotherhood candidates - running as independents - clinched more than a fifth of seats in Egypt"s parliamentary elections.[36]

The movement says the authorities created numerous illegal obstacles which made it impossible for most of the Muslim Brotherhood"s candidates to stand in the election.[38] According to Mohamed Habieb, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the regime fears a repeat of the parliamentary elections at the end of 2005, in which the Muslim Brothers won almost 20 percent of the seats.[50]

Court rulings that the Muslim Brothers should be allowed onto the list of candidates were simply ignored by the Interior Ministry. Human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have voiced their protests against the situation. They call the way the regime has tried to secure its success in the elections "shameless".[50] With the victory of the ruling party never in doubt after the disqualification of many opposition candidates, few Egyptians turned out to vote. "The results were known before the voting, the ruling party has already won two thirds of the vote because they were uncontested," said the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights.[22] Human Rights Watch said last month that arresting hundreds of opposition Islamists, including would-be candidates, amounted to a "shameless bid" to fix the vote.[2]



The New York-based group Human Rights Watch called the action "shameless" and said it cast serious doubt on the election"s legitimacy. It also criticised the ongoing military trial of 40 senior Brotherhood members - charged with belonging to a banned group and possessing anti-government literature. [36] The US-based Human Rights Watch has called the recent arrests a "shameless bid" to fix the elections. The Brotherhood says more than 500 of its members are now being held.[33]

Rights groups have stressed that the government"s continued aggressive crackdown on Brotherhood members, arresting and imprisoning hundreds in the weeks leading up to the April 8 vote, reveal democratic ideals are still rudimentary.[15] Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud said that the government had disqualified most of the several hundred Brotherhood members who had registered as candidates, and that in the end only 21 members from the group were allowed to run. He said they would withdraw their candidacy in line with the groups boycott.[16] The Brotherhood has vowed to use legal channels to try to get the vote result invalidated because of the restrictions on opposition groups. 19 members were re-arrested following orders for their release. "This is a reaction to our boycott," deputy supreme guide Mohammed Habib told AFP.[22] The weekend"s raids are the latest in a crackdown in which more than 350 members of Egypt"s main opposition group have been detained in the week before the vote.[33]

The Brotherhood and Egypt"s major opposition groups boycotted a referendum on constitutional amendments in March, and some independent observers put the turnout at as low as 3 percent.[2] We"re sometimes accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood (the Islamist opposition group) because we give the group a voice in our reporting.[48]

Egyptian security forces have arrested more than 600 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement since December.[53] The Muslim Brotherhood has been obstructed in every possible way. A count on the Brotherhood"s website ikhwanweb.net of the number of its members arrested and detained since January has reached 831. In the past week alone, 269 Muslim brothers have been taken from their homes in the dead of night or from the streets in broad daylight.[50]

The officially banned, but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood - albeit under strict restrictions - planned to nominate almost 8,000 members as independent candidates.[50] The Muslim Brotherhood had thousands of candidates rejected by the national government placing only 20 candidates on the ballot, the BBC said Tuesday.[23] "We believe the government has had a hand in closing down the website more than once this week," she says as she telephones for technical help. Mariam Ali - not her real name - is an articulate university graduate. She is filling in for Khaled Hamza who was arrested outside his home in February. "He is one of the moderates of the Muslim Brotherhood," she says. "We believe he was detained to try to silence the media"s voice."[36] Mr Habib says the government wants to prevent a repetition of that success. "They felt scared and panicked when they saw the result. Afterwards they changed their strategy and tried to marginalise and undermine the Muslim Brotherhood." In spite of the serious topic of discussion, Mr Habib smiles often as I sit in his brightly-coloured office with a cup of hot sweet tea.[36]

"The West has a lot of misconceptions, such as linking the Muslim Brotherhood to violence or believing that we are a Machiavellian movement which is trying to turn Egypt into a caliphate or dictatorship." "We are trying to correct all these misconceptions."[36]

There have been attempts to arrest the editor of the group"s Arabic website and the chairman"s media advisor has been imprisoned. "This is the first time the government has targeted our new media outlets," says Asem Shalaby, a publisher and Brotherhood leader. "This is how we communicate with people in Egypt and the outside world."[36] The Brotherhood says the government is eager to avoid another electoral setback after pro-Islamist independents won 20% of seats in the last parliament. The group is officially banned in Egypt, although its activities have been broadly tolerated.[8] The group has said the government is eager to avoid another electoral setback after the Brotherhood won 20 percent of seats in 2005 parliamentary elections.[22] The Government says the Brotherhood is a banned organisation, but the group operates openly and has 20% of seats in the lower house of parliament through members elected as independents.[33]

"The government interfered in the election by banning the acceptance of our nominees and refused to follow court orders that the Brotherhood members achieved," Mohamed Badr, a spokesman for the banned organization said, alluding to the hundreds of court cases issued telling the government to remove the ban on the Islamic party"s nominees.[15] Hundreds of members of the popular opposition movement have been put behind bars since January. The movement says the government is deliberately trying to stop them from fielding candidates, and is calling the elections a farce.[13] The NPD headed into the elections unopposed for 45 000 seats, while NPD candidates were vying against each other for another 6 000 council seats. The remaining 1 000 seats were being contested by NPD candidates as well as by those from the opposition political parties Wafd, Nassiry and Tagamo.[29] Since 2005, it has been the strongest force in the opposition with 20 percent of the parliament"s 454 seats. Its candidates would probably attract strong support in the local elections if they were above board.[18] Originally the Brotherhood hoped to field 10,000 candidates in the local elections.[36] The local elections had been scheduled to take place in 2006, but were put off for two years, apparently out of fear of more Brotherhood gains.[16] The local elections were postponed for two years in 2006 in what observers said was a way of preventing another success for the Brotherhood.[22]

I fear for my family and friends." The local elections have highlighted how far Egypt still has to go before achieving the democracy Mubarak promised during his 2005 presidential campaign, international organizations have repeatedly said.[15] And, as David Ignatius pointed out in Sunday"s Washington Post, there has been no outcry of opposition from the U.S. or the Israelis. The bottom line in this complex relationship is that U.S. aid to Egypt has continued without major interruption despite what many see as toothless criticisms by the Bush Administration of the iron-fisted 30-year rule of Egypt"s aging autocrat, Hosni Mubarak. That criticism has included Administration condemnation of the arrest and imprisonment of Mubarak"s main opponent in the presidential elections in 2005, Ayman Nour, who Bush said was "unjustly imprisoned."[34] CAIRO, Egypt -- Egypt"s main political opposition said Monday it was boycotting municipal elections and called on Egyptians to stay away from Tuesday"s polls.[46] Most polling stations in Cairo appeared to be almost empty amid an opposition boycott and a general feeling of apathy among the voters, as well as anxiety over clashes to the north of the capital. The election was taking place after two days of riots over food prices and low wages in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla, where a teenage boy was shot by police overnight and later died of his wounds.[25] The elections are taking place against a backdrop of anger in the country over rising food prices, which have prompted widespread strikes and demonstrations. Two days of violent clashes in the northern industrial city of Mahalla al-Kobra turned deadly when a young protester died of his wounds Tuesday morning, according to police.[20]

In Mahalla al-Kobra, the center of Egypts textile industry north of Cairo, a melee broke out late in the day as the riot police fired tear gas and workers threw stones. Officials said there were more than 200 arrests around the country, including at least seven people arrested for their efforts to use the Internet to promote the call for a day of unrest.[35] CAIRO (AFP) — Egyptian police on Monday clashed with thousands of demonstrators for the second consecutive day in the industrial city of Mahallah, on the eve of key local polls, police and workers said. Police fired tear gas and shots in the air as around 7,000 protesters hurled stones at them in clashes in four sectors of the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, a security official said.[27] The regime is under mounting pressure after two days of unrest in the Nile Delta industrial city of Mahalla el-Kobra. A 15-year-old died after being shot by police during clashes on Monday in the city, home to Egypt"s largest textile mill and some of its more militant workers, a security official and medics said.[22]

The Brotherhood has said that it supports the workers" right to strike but played no part in organising the protests. The group said it would not rally its supporters to join the strike because it felt the goals were unclear. Labour organisers have called on thousands of textile workers to walk out of factories in the northern Nile Delta industrial city of Mahalla el-Kobra on Sunday to voice their dissatisfaction over low wages.[26] In the first major attempt by opposition groups and intellectuals to coordinate actions with labor activists, the strike was planned to coincide with a worker"s strike at the state-run Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla.[21]

Strikes Last Sunday, the whole of the country"s security forces appeared to have been mobilised because opposition groups called for national strikes and demonstrations.[50]

Nationwide strikes to protest food prices and inadequate wages had been planned for Sunday, but the government issued warnings against demonstrations, deploying security forces on the streets across Egypt.[6] The main complaint is economic, driven by rising food prices, depressed salaries and what opposition leaders say is an unprecedented gap between rich and poor. It is hard to say if the streets were empty Sunday because people stayed home for fear of getting caught in the crossfire between protesters and police, or because of the call to stay home as a form of protest. Either way, the government took the threat of a mass mobilization so seriously that it issued a warning to potential strikers, saying it would "take necessary and resolute measures toward any attempt to demonstrate, impede traffic, hamper work in public facilities or to incite any of this."[35]



Ethiopians should do no less. We have to follow the Egyptian example and call a stay home strike and boycott the government organized make-believe election for this month. We know their is sacrifice to be paid and we also know millions of our people have no dignified life to live for. [51] "We call on the Egyptian people to boycott the municipal elections because of the executive"s disregard for justice," Brotherhood number two Mohammed Habib said.[45]

The Brotherhood said the crackdown was aimed at preventing the group"s members from running in municipal elections on April 8.[26] State security forces stormed the houses of the Brotherhood members in several northern and southern cities during a dawn raid, the group said in a statement. A senior member of the group was reportedly among those arrested, it said.[26]

The Egyptian government"s crackdown on the Brotherhood has been sharply criticized by the United States and international human rights groups.[14] The report said that there have been "huge harassments of human rights organizations and defenders have been increasingly subject to abusive and suppressive actions by government actors in democratic rights and freedoms in the majority of Arab countries, particularly Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Tunisia." The group called upon the international community to "exert effective efforts to urge Arab governments to duly reconsider their legislation, policy and practices contravening their international obligations to protect freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom to form associations, including non-governmental organizations." It added that "Special attention should be awarded to providing protection to human rights defenders in the Arab World."[34] The State Department"s human rights report annually confirms that instances of torture, abuse and death in detention are widespread, and Egypt is known to have been the recipient of "extraordinary renditions" by the CIA. Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress weighed in to express its displeasure with the Mubarak regime. It put a "hold" on $100 million of American military aid to Egypt, calling on the Mubarak government to protect the independence of the judiciary, stop police abuses and curtail arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza."[34] According to one of the Arab world"s most widely respected non-governmental organizations, a vibrant civil society is the perfect definition of what Egypt is not. Nor is most of the rest of the Arab Middle East and North Africa. In a recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Council - of which Egypt is a member -- the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) charged that at least fourteen Middle East and North African governments are systematically violating the civil liberties of their citizens - and most of them are close U.S. allies in the war on terror.[34] The CIHRS report to the UN details numerous human rights violations throughout the Arab Middle East and North Africa. It accuses Syria of arresting "dozens tens of qualified professionals personnel belonging to human rights organizations and civil society revival committees." It says the Bahraini government closed the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, put the president of one civil society on trial, and charged seven other activists with "participating in an illegal gathering and creating disturbance."[34]

Millions of people from the Middle East and North Africa have now migrated to Europe. And, so far, few European countries have shown either the skills or the political will to develop policies to create a more welcoming environment for these "not like us" newcomers. It is a very special problem for the United States - the country the whole world once looked to as an exemplar of respect for civil liberties, human rights and the rule of law. It is doubtful that America"s position in the world is likely to be restored by being found in bed with Hosni Mubarak or King Abdullah. Doubtful is that President Bush, in the waning months of his administration, is going to do anything except "stay the course."[34] The street battle in Mahalla al-Kobra, located one and a half hours by car from Cairo, on Sunday evening might be considered normal in other parts of the Middle East. However such scenes are rare in the tightly run regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.[18] Two schools were burned and more than 150 people were reported injured in the northern town of Mahalla al-Kobra, but it was the eerie emptiness of the streets of Cairo on Sunday that signalled the depth of discontent with President Hosni Mubarak"s Government.[45]

Cairo has banned the Brotherhood, although it largely allowed it to operate without many restrictions under President Hosni Mubarak until 2005 when Brotherhood independent candidates took nearly one-quarter of seats in Parliament. The Brotherhood has, throughout its 80-year existence called for change to come at the ballot box, not through violence.[3] The news went largely unreported, so you may have missed it, but last week the editor of a newspaper in Cairo was sentenced to six months in prison for spreading "false information. damaging the public interest and national stability" by reporting that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was in a coma.[34] CAIRO, Apr 8 (IPS) - Launched in 1995, Al-Dustour was closed by the government three years later after publishing articles critical of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.[48] Hosni Mubarak has been ruling against the will of the people for more than 25 years now. It"s very humiliating. Although the strike was not successful, it was important to show the ruling system that no one approves of its regime.[43] I watched a brave woman(Aljazerra April 6) on the street of Cairo saying no to Mubarak"s tyranny supporting the stay home strike called by Egyptian workers who are now living on a USA $2 per day and can not afford to buy bread for their families due to high inflation.[51] Clashes have broken out between protesters and Egyptian security personnel in an industrial town for a second day amid a workers" strike over low wages.[54] On Sunday Egyptian textile workers clashed with police after security forces intervened to stop a strike by taking control of a major Nile Delta textiles plant.[9] The rebellious textile city of Mahalla, in which tens of thousands of discontented workers wanted to strike for higher minimum wages, was under close observation by the security forces.[18] The Mubarak regime retaliated by occupying the Mahalla complex with security forces, abducting strike committee leaders Kamal El-Faioumy and Tarek Amin and arresting political activists of every political tendency in Cairo and other cities.[52]

The situation in Egypt mirrors a wider crisis among the secular left in the Middle East, which is increasingly struggling to mobilise popular support in the face of well-organised Islamist movements that have proved themselves far more adept at successfully articulating local concerns. The sand is yet to settle on today"s events in Cairo, but it is already clear that Mubarak will live through this particular storm. Opposition forces of every hue are being forced to ask themselves why that is so, and which way they should turn next in the struggle to effect meaningful political change in Egypt.[28] IE: At the end of 2004, Egypt enjoyed a brief political spring, which lasted until the beginning of last year. This period witnessed several significant developments in the region, including (former U.S. Secretary of State) Colin Powell"s democratisation initiative for the Middle East, U.S. pressure on the Mubarak regime for political reform and the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq. These factors combined to force dictatorial Arab regimes to begin showing a degree of flexibility vis-"-vis the political opposition.[48]

Despite attempts by the Mubarak regime in recent years to liberalize the economy, the managing director of the World Bank, Juan Jose Daboub, recently predicted that reforms would take at least a generation to show results. "It takes between 25 or 30 years," Daboub said, "to go from lack of development to development." Even in the best case scenario, Egypt is only five to 10 years into this process. Although government reforms have spurred impressive growth levels in recent years, they have had the unintended consequence of producing two Egypts.[32]

Last year, I -- along with four other independent editors-in-chief -- was sentenced to one year in prison for publishing "libellous material" about leading members of the regime. I would like to point out, though, that these sentences are political in nature and not judicial. They ultimately serve to confirm the sovereignty of the government and president over the people, despite the fact that the constitution expressly grants sovereignty to the people.[48] Following a judicial decree, the newspaper began printing again in 2005. Al-Dustour -- which currently publishes both daily and weekly editions -- has secured a loyal readership for itself by continuing to address issues generally considered beyond the "red lines" in Egyptian media. Eissa faces several charges of "defaming" government officials, for which he could face possible jail. Eissa speaks to Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa Al-Omrani of IPS about his hard-hitting newspaper, the contentious issue of presidential "inheritance", the future of political reform in Egypt, and the latest developments in his own legal contests with the regime.[48] In today"s world, every one with a true Ethiopian sentiment should have a three-dimensional, sophisticated and global view of political matters. It must be our main task in the Diaspora to protect our people from the outside by leaving Ethiopians in Ethiopia to sort out their problems and failings by themselves. Unless one is driven by hunger for a political power, no rational Ethiopian would compare his country with Egypt, not to mention make a call by taking the Egyptian political process as role model for another possible Revolution.[51] Thousands of people, including factory workers, junior office clerks, young people skipping school and political activists, marched through the streets of Mahalla al-Kobra on Sunday evening. Their numbers included those who had always been poor, and those who had watched the rising cost of living in Egypt eat into their modest prosperity. They wanted to protest against the rising price of bread and demand an increase in their salaries.[18] The elections coincide with nationwide strikes and unrest. Factory workers and some professionals have staged protests or threatened demonstrations over low salaries and price rises of basic goods such as wheat and bread.[13] Friday"s arrests came two days before Egyptian textile workers and pro-democracy activists have planned a day of strikes and protests.[26] On the background of a workers" call for strike action on 6 April in Mahalla textile complex, various political forces decided to support the strike through parallel symbolic work stoppage and peaceful protests.[52] Voting comes two days after riots erupted in Delta province town of Mahalla, where police aborted a strike by thousands of textile workers.[10] Last month, some 27,000 textile workers went on strike seeking better working conditions and higher wages. It"s not just day laborers who are fed up with Egypt"s two-tiered economic system.[32]



Election workers wait for voters during local council elections at a polling station in Cairo Tuesday. [18] There are 52,000 local council seats, and the group tried to field 10,000 candidates.[25] Voting in the city was cancelled on Tuesday and 15 of the 56 local council seats were then handed out to opposition parties, according to an official government document viewed by The Associated Press.[12] State-run media reported Monday that about a quarter of the more than 50,000 local council seats across Egypt would not be contested, and thus would stay in the NDPs control.[16]

Millions will vote to fill 52,000 seats in 4,500 municipal councils at the village, district, and provincial level. This election season, however, most Egyptians are focused less on political issues and more on matters of daily survival.[32] I have washed my hands off Kinijit, so should you. It is unfortunate the brave Professors Merara Guidina and Beyene Petros courageously battling against TPLF in parliament have unwittingly fallen victims to Meles"s cynical ethnic politics. In so doing they have drastically narrowed their support base to their respective ethnic groups which is very unlikely to generate a winning majority in any federal elections. I have to acknowledge here Professor Beyene Petros"s commendable steps to transform his group in to an Ethiopia wide political party purely based on ideology with out rejecting the ideal of the right to self-determination. His desire to change his party"s name to Social Democratic Party with out reference to any ethnic group was a clear indication that he disfavoured ethnic politics. The NBE later rejected his application for change of name on dubious grounds which shows that such uniting move sends shivers down Meles"s spine because it is in direct collusion with his divide and rule policy. They are beyond redemption.[51] Harb said the National Democratic Party was trying to eliminate all other forces from the competition to monopolize the elections.[42] A statement by Brotherhood head Mohamed Mahdi Akef said: "It has become manifestly clear that the party of corruption and oppression (the ruling National Democratic Party) fears any competition, even if limited."[2] The state-run MENA news agency said 70 percent of the races nationwide had already been decided because candidates from the ruling National Democratic Party were running unopposed.[25] The state newspaper al-Gomhuria and the official Mena news agency announced early on that the ruling National Democratic Party had already taken 70 percent of the 52,000 seats because they were uncontested.[19]

The religious movement was officially banned in 1954, but the government and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) tolerate it to some extent.[53] Traditionally dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party, the municipal polls are expected to draw fierce competition after a constitutional amendment was passed in 2005.[26]



"The NDP is trying to eliminate all other forces from the competition in order to monopolize the elections," Usama Harb, president of the opposition Democratic Front Party told The Media Line. The MB also expressed its support for yesterday"s demonstrations, but did not call on its supporters to actively participate in them. [53]

Then there is the matter of the United States" alleged pressure on Mubarak to become democratic- the United States understands precisely what anything approaching a democratic election would lead to in Egypt (and it wouldn"t involve papier-mache statues of Liberty and rose petals showering the U.S. Embassy.) It really is a pity that a report with as much authenticity as this one has to be "framed": as if truth can only be admitted to the party if it dresses up as Abe Lincoln and waves red white and blue bunting.[28] In terms of U.S. calls for democratisation, I don"t think anyone in the region can take seriously calls for political pluralisation from a state which did so much to subvert the results of the 2006 Palestinian elections, where Hamas triumphed. The fact remains that Mubarak and the NDP are dependent on U.S. aid for their survival, which makes them acutely sensitive to American criticism, however cynical and hypocritical that criticism may be. The recent defensive backlash against comments by the newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to Egypt is an example of this.[28] Demonstrations in Egypt forced Mubarak to allow a multiple-candidate election for president for the first time.[47] The charade of democratic elections in Egypt typifies the Bush administration"s faltering freedom agenda for the Arab world. When President George W. Bush delivered his first major speech on democracy in the Middle East, it seemed as if the United States had turned a page of history.[47] Bush also said the democratic transformation of the Middle East would begin with regime change in Iraq. Bush outdid Reagan: He went for a twofer: The U.S. would continue to talk up freedom and democracy while enlisting other nations to help fight the "global war on terror." It is now clear that in Dubya"s world, counter-terrorism trumps democracy promotion, rhetoric notwithstanding. It is precisely that juxtaposition of goals that now finds us in bed with most of the world"s most repressive regimes - many of the same countries we wooed during the Cold War. Egypt was one of them. In the 1950s, both the Soviet Union and the Western powers offered aid to Egypt to build the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River. Egypt chose to buy weapons from the communist government of Czechoslovakia, and the West canceled its offer.[34]

With government statistics showing a baby is born every 23 seconds in Egypt, the demographic, and thus, economic, outlook is unlikely to change anytime soon. In the meantime, the government will continue to urge patience; something Egyptians have all but run out of these days.[32] "The move to boycott the key elections comes in response to many violations by the Egyptian government and security bodies," a source from the movement told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.[17] The White House has expressed concern about the arrests and called on the Egyptian government to stop any actions that would compromise the ability of the Egyptian people to participate in a free and fair election.[42]

International human rights groups and the U.S. administration have also criticised the way the Egyptian authorities have run the election preparations.[2] Police detained at least seven monitors from two independent rights groups -- the Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development and the Egyptian Center for Development and Democratic Studies -- in the provinces of Qaliubia, Assiut, Sohag, and Kafr el-Sheikh, the groups said. Police also stopped monitors from the groups from entering polling stations around the country, saying they did not have proper accreditation, the groups added.[1] Some two dozen protesters on Monday tore apart a large roadside poster of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president. Riot police reacted by charging at the group, dragging some of them along the pavement, beating them with batons and punching many in the face. Other protesters grabbed canisters of tear gas and threw them back at the police.[54] Only 30 per cent of seats are set to be contested on Tuesday as the ruling party of Hosni Mubarak, the president, has already won 70 per cent of the seats by default.[12]

Since June, the government has spent $2.7 billion on bread subsides alone. In a country where 40 percent of the population survives on $2 a day, such subsidies can literally mean the difference between eating and going hungry. Aware of the potential dangers arising from a population that is both angry and desperate, President Mubarak ordered the army last month to increase bread production to cope with the shortages. Such a solution might help in the short term but in the long term real economic and social reforms are needed.[32] With prices for many staples in Egypt doubling over the past year, the government has also tried to stem complaints over shortages in supplies of subsidized bread, on which the country"s poor rely.[31] Eight days later, it was the academics" turn, as university professors across Egypt took to the streets in what is only the second recorded instance of teachers striking in the country"s history. Although the World Bank estimates that Egypt"s annual GDP per capita is around $1,400, both groups typically earn less than $600 a year.[32] One member of the new Facebook group said: "If God created the world in six days, we can"t expect to change Egypt in just one."[54] The violence in Mahalla raged as Egypt "s cyber dissidents set a new date for anti-government action on May 4, the same day that Mubarak will turn 80.[54] Police fired tear gas as about 7,000 protesters hurled stones toward them in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla el-Kobra a day earlier. About 300 people have been arrested and 90 injured since the protests began and one teenage boy was killed after a rubber bullet hit him at close range, Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera"s correspondent in Egypt, said.[12] The worst of the street protests occurred in Mahalla el-Kobra, home to Egypt"s largest textile mill, where thousands took to the street in two-days of demonstrations, which left around 15 people injured in the clashes and a 15-year-old boy shot dead by police Monday.[30]

Riot police fired tear gas on Monday to disperse hundreds of people throwing stones in Mahalla el-Kobra, 110km north of Cairo and the site of Egypt"s largest textile factory.[54]

Belal Fadl, a satirist in Cairo, said the Government could no longer rely on a politically apathetic population. "People in Egypt don"t care about democracy and the transfer of power," he said. "Their problem is limited to their ability to survive, and if that is threatened then they will stand up."[45]

Escalating food costs and declining wages bolstered resentment against the Egyptian government. The BBC said Cairo was calm Tuesday, but reported opposition leaders said its demonstrators could return to the streets at a moments notice.[23] Prosecutors also announced that an additional 147 members are under investigation for causing riots during unauthorized protests against the government. Human Rights Watch has criticized the Egyptian government for the arrests, calling them a "shameless attempt to fix the upcoming elections."[24] The government warned protests would not be tolerated and demonstrators would be detained. The strike organizers did not get the turnout they hoped for on Sunday, but protests did take place in some places and clashes were reported between security forces and demonstrators in the northern town Al-Mahalla Al-Kubra.[13] The protests were sparked when security forces moved into an important local textile factory under cover of darkness early on Sunday to thwart a planned strike.[19] 58 people, including 28 policemen, were hurt in clashes and 150 people arrested, after plans for a strike at the city"s textile factory were scrapped under pressure from security forces.[27]

Supporters should mount pressure on the Egyptian dictatorship to release more than 800 people who were detained yesterday. These include more than 150 political activists (socialists, liberals, and Islamists), more than 600 protestors from Mahalla (mainly women and children) and Mahalla strike committee leaders Kamal El-Faioumy and Tarek Amin " who are facing serious allegations of agitation which can lead to long prison sentences.[52] Doctors have also threatened to strike, complaining that physicians with 20 years experience, for example, often make no more than 450 Egyptian pounds a month, the equivalent of about $80. "What made us take more confrontational measures is that we saw other groups doing so and making their demands," said Hamdy El Sayyid, longtime chairman of the doctors syndicate.[35] The government also tried, through state-run media, to intimidate prospective participants in a general strike called by secular opposition groups over the weekend.[21] The elections are being held at a time of burgeoning economic unrest and ongoing political repression. Public discontent with the regime is widespread, and opposition groups appear unable to successfully mobilize this growing dissent.[21] A crackdown on opposition groups left many potential candidates behind bars prompting protesters to rip down billboards of Mubarak and torch several buildings during the weekend.[23]

A Brotherhood spokesman put the number at 26. He said the men, including two candidates in the vote, were picked up across four provinces in the Nile Delta, where the Islamist group has a strong popular base.[33] The Brotherhood fielded candidates as independents in the 2005 legislative elections and gained a fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament.[42] Cairo has resorted to tried-and-tested means to prevent the Brotherhood from winning enough council seats to put forward an Islamist presidential candidate.[18]

Only 21 candidates affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood are being allowed to stand out of thousands.[19] I think the Muslim Brotherhood is using the unhappiness of people to try to build political support.[43] The opposition Muslim Brotherhood, facing repression, failed to harness growing public discontent.[21] Mr Habib takes the long view. "The authorities have cracked down on the Brotherhood many times before," he says - reflecting on its 80-year history - "but every time we come back stronger." In her plush apartment on the outskirts of Cairo, the acting editor of the Muslim Brotherhood"s English website, IkhwanWeb, is less composed. She realises as she tries to show me the site that access has been blocked.[36] There has been strong international condemnation of the latest round-up of Muslim Brotherhood members. Last month the White House expressed its concern.[36] Only a nod from the security guard when you ask "al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun?" reassures you that you have arrived at the office of the Muslim Brotherhood.[36] The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned since 1954, but it is tolerated to some extent.[13]



The Brotherhood made it into the parliament by following a successful recipe: the group combines religion with social projects, portrays itself as the party of the "little people" and denounces state corruption. [18] "We feel we are not competing with a normal party but with a group of corrupt people who are willing to even resort to illegal and unethical means," the Brotherhood said.[5]



When Ibrahim points out that many of his party comrades were threatened, kidnapped and arrested so they would not stand as candidates, and then announces that they will do exactly that, his argument appears to make little sense. It"s true that the Islamists want to challenge the elections afterwards, but they have little hope of success. The real reason behind the withdrawal is different: the outcome of the elections was already fixed, long before the first polling station opened its doors on Tuesday. [18] Mohammed Abdel Meguid, 28, said from a Cairo polling station: "I"ve come to vote in the hope of having a life that is less hard, with no bread problems. "We hope that these elections will change things a bit, if they"re not rigged like the others when the NDP has always won."[12] In one of the polling stations in central Cairo, where the electoral list includes 5 964 names, only 50 voters have voted, mostly for NDP candidates. Campaigners for NDP candidates and opposition Tagamo were seen canvassing voters as they entered through the gates of the polling stations.[29]

With the government under pressure following two days of demonstrations, police were stationed outside Cairo polling stations for the vote.[44] In Cairo, riot police officers massed in Tahrir Square, the center of the city. They stood in formation outside the lawyers, doctors and journalists syndicates. State security agents had visited government workers in advance and ordered them to attend work on Sunday, some workers said.[35] Police were stationed outside Cairo polling stations, with the state-run Middle East News Agency (Mena) saying the interior ministry had set up "a tight security plan. to guard the polling stations from the outside".[12]

"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty," Bush said in the fall of 2003. "Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East." Never had an American president so openly admitted his country"s failure to advance democratic ideals.[47]

In Egypt, a country where the president has ruled for more than a quarter of a century, free and fair elections are a rarity. The country held its first multi-candidate presidential elections in 2005.[32] Cairo - Finally, after a two-year postponement, Egypt"s polls opened Tuesday for municipal council elections.[21] The White House said it was concerned by a "campaign of arrests" in Egypt of election activists opposed to the NDP.[2]

The local elections will pass and the bread crisis will end even if after a while, and other daily problems will be resolved, but the gap between politicians and people will grow wider. This will remain the case as long as politicians are preoccupied with their interests, their seats and election ballots while the average voter is busy searching for a job, a home, or… a loaf of bread.[49] Tunisia released hundreds of political prisoners, and even Saudi Arabia held unprecedented local elections. These developments were real and important--and easily reversible. Arab dictatorships have not loosened their grip on political power, nor begun to embrace democratic ideals. They continue to thwart the rise of a strong and independent civil society.[47] The local elections have an unprecedented importance following a 2005 constitutional amendment requiring presidential candidates to secure the backing of councillors.[44] The municipal elections have gained importance because of a constitutional amendment that requires independent presidential candidates to have the backing of municipal councilors.[42] The municipal elections have gained importance after a constitutional amendment requires any independent presidential candidate to gain the endorsement of municipal councilors in order to run.[13]

"The government has removed many of our candidates from election lists without giving a reason.[17] The Brotherhood was set to field just 20 candidates after a wide-ranging government crackdown left many would-be candidates behind bars or blocked from registering.[7] Ibrahim said the Brotherhood"s parliamentary bloc would seek to hold the government accountable in parliament for refusing to implement the court rulings.[2] Others were barred from entering registration offices or had their applications rejected by officials. When local courts upheld their complaints no action was taken. "We have got used to it," he says. "It has become a routine that the ruling party acts like this."[36]

Local news reports also said significant numbers of candidates from the liberal Wafd party and left-leaning Tagammu party were also rejected.[19] China reportedly is working on a deal with a major advertising agency. Their problem this week is the continuing fallout of the so called Tibet Riot- unhappy crowds trying to snuff out the traveling olympic torches, bad PR across the planet. The inbred chinese communist party old boys Club figures they need a bit of positive spin. For perspective on this news item, please consider the present plight of Zimbabwe, which is undergoing elections right now.[39] The media-savvy Islamists had waited until the very last moment to break the news. The conference room was packed with international media who listened attentively as the Brotherhood spokesman explained why his organization would not participate in the election.[18] In the 2005 legislative elections, the Brotherhood made a strong showing. Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.[6]

The Brotherhood scored surprise victories in 2005 parliament elections that gave it a fifth of the legislature"s 454 seats.[5]

The election takes place against a backdrop of protests over rising food prices and poor wages, which lasted for two days.[12] With at least 30% of Egyptians living on around $2 a day the doubling of staple food prices has caused shortages and hardship across the country leading to unrest.[30]

"People are staying at home today," said Ashraf, a clerk in a luggage store on Adly Street. He was afraid to give his last name, for fear of arrest, but he said he kept his children home from school and dressed in all black as signs of support for the protest. "Because of the prices, because we cant get food," he said explaining the reason for the strike.[35] "We know Mahalla is suffering and you have passed through many crises," Ahmed Nazif told workers at a state-run textle factory that employs 25,000 people. "But it is through crises that men prove their mettle." Workers in the hall cheered Nazif, but many people remained sceptical about his promises. "What Nazif has said, we"ve heard it all before, what"s new? They really have no idea how we suffer here," Rashad Fathi, a factory worker who says his monthly wage of $34 is not enough to feed his four children, said.[44] One teenage boy was killed after a rubber bullet hit him at close range, Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera"s correspondent in Egypt, said. Egypt"s prime minister moved to calm the situation in Mahalla on Tuesday by offering workers a 30-day salary bonus and promising to address their concerns about healthcare and wages.[44]

MAHALLA EL-KOBRA, Egypt - Egypt"s prime minister on Tuesday rushed to contain an explosive situation in a northern industrial city rocked by two days of deadly riots over high prices and low wages, some of the worst economic unrest here in 30 years.[31]

I followed the current unrest and problem in Egypt with some degree of anticipation. Frankly speaking, I don"t dare to wish Egyptians to suffer because they have been cruel towards Ethiopians for hundreds and thousands of years. It looks like it"s unavoidable that they have to learn a very good lesson through the same suffering that Ethiopians had to experience throughout their history. They continue refusing to have the necessary respect for Ethiopians, they don"t even take the warnings that come out of our country seriously. They have to learn the hard way. They need to discover the test of Hunger, Malnutrition and Disease, big time. This is just the beginning.[51] Ellis: I completely agree with your comments. With regards to regional hegemony, the sentiment I was trying to express was simply that the Damascus summit brought into sharp relief the fact that Arab regimes are coalescing around two different poles, and Egypt"s prominence at one of those poles is yet another black mark against Mubarak"s name in the eyes of many Egyptians - particularly as the US/Israel-supporting bloc of Egypt, Saudi Arabia etc. is tying itself so closely to the doomed Abbas-Olmert peace talks.[28] Al-Dustour consistently challenges the notion that the president is above criticism, while also publishing articles about Egypt"s future after President Mubarak. Both of these were considered major "red lines" in the Egyptian press before Al-Dustour first started writing about them when it first opened in 1995. Before this, broaching these topics had been impossible.[48] In one of them, I personally thanked President Mubarak for stating publicly that "Egypt isn"t Syria," and that Egypt "rejects the idea of presidential inheritance." These were the first two articles on the inheritance issue to be written in the local press.[48]

Thousands of people in Al-Mahallah Al-Kubra work in the local state-owned Egypt Spinning and Weaving Company.[53] Ethiopia is already benefiting from the USA subsidized wheat and the question is for how long? As we see the war in Iraq and the recession in USA is not encouraging to put hope on the handout from USA. The seventy million Egyptians and seventy million Ethiopians have been ruled for their long history by autocrats supported by west and the recent talk of "democracy and freedom" by Bush and Condi remains empty rhetoric and the people of Egypt has taken a lead by going out on the streets and demand their democracy and freedom this past week,.[51] Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera"s correspondent in Egypt, said: "There is an uprising mostly led by the younger generation, 15- and 16-year-old boys, not the workers, who are throwing stones, as people had expected.[54] There have already been violent scenes centred around Egypt"s biggest textile factory at Mahallah al-Koubra, where thousands of workers who are fiercely opposed to the government, are angry about low pay.[4] Since September 2007 the government itself has scrambled to keep pace with the growing reliance on strikes as a tool to press worker demands.[35]

"When one person throws one stone, the rest of the people follow suit." Botros said that those protesting were not factory workers but mostly youngsters between the ages of 15 and 21, many of whom he claimed were "professional bullies" marked as "dangerous" people by the Egyptian authorities.[12] "I am not about to claim that the Egyptian people are finally rebelling," said Abdel Ahab El Meseery, an organizer with Kifaya, an opposition movement, who once served as the Arab Leagues cultural attach to the United Nations.[35] More than 300 people were arrested and approximately 100 were wounded on Sunday during clashes between Egyptian police and protestors in the northern city Al-Mahallah Al-Kubra.[53] Dozens of people were arrested in Cairo and Alexandria, the police announced on Sunday evening. "Immediate and firm measures against any attempt to demonstrate, disrupt road traffic or the running of public establishments and against all attempts to incite such acts," the Interior Ministry warned on Saturday.[53]

Egyptian police arrested several bloggers on Sunday, including Mohammed Sharkawi and Malak Mustafa, as well as Esra Adel Fattah, the creator of Facebook"s April 6 group.[54] The Egyptian government has accused the group of trying to create an Islamic theocracy through violence.[24]

I have seen a lot of comments about a taxi driver which is not important to post it and to send a comment about it but now i have not seen yet a single comment about this a very important article shame on you. yes we have to follow the Egyptian example and call a stay home strik and boycott the woyane organized make-believe election for this month.[51] Large numbers of Egyptians are expected to boycott the elections, which kicked off Tuesday.[15]

The movement has called on the people to boycott the elections, in which 4,500 city councils are being contested.[17] The violence, in which one person may have died, comes in advance of Tuesday"s local council elections.[54] The local council elections were due to be held a few months later but were postponed indefinitely.[50]



One week after the election, there is no official vote count. Yeah I know all about hanging chads, but this is ridiculous. Just drag the old guy out into the bushes and cut his throat, that is my personal advice. He has managed to impoverish this nation to such an extent that the average life span for a female in Zimbabwe is now around 40 years. [39] Here you are asking for a pity party, and you have never once had an election for so much as a dogcatcher over the last fifty years.[39]

We saw the opposition Al-Ghad party receive a licence from the government and the (pro-democracy) Kefaya movement begin organising street protests.[48] International organisations have condemned the government"s crackdown against opposition candidates.[7] Reports from Mahalla said voting had been canceled there after the clashes, and some of the seats there were handed out to opposition and independent candidates.[25] The factory floor at Mahalla has taken on the state twice in the past, and won. It"s no surprise that actions there have become a focus for opposition forces throughout the country, particularly as the Kefaya ("Enough") movement, which drew thousands on to the streets back in 2005, has recently faded away - just as the potential for mass mobilisation in defiance of the regime appears stronger than ever.[28]



We are talking here about an organization that committed gross human rights violations in Gambela, Ogaden and many other areas, fractured our country, sold off part of our land, and made Ethiopia land locked for the first time in history. If anything, TPLF should be brought before a free and fair court of law in a democratic Ethiopia for the multitude of crimes they have committed against Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people. [51] "We have declared our acceptance of democracy. Real democracy is dependant on political pluralism and the people"s right to choose their leaders." "We have faith in ordinary Egyptians because they want reform."[36] Since the toppling of Sudan"s democratic government in 1989, Sudanese civil society has been deprived of many legal and political protections and rights. Civil society institutions in conflict affected countries, such as Iraq, come under constant violent attack; the same applies to the situation in Palestine - whether due to the occupation or in-fighting between its two political parties."[34]

Deputy leader Mohammed Habib urged people not to vote in protest at the government"s "disregard for justice".[8] Only 30 per cent of the 52,000 council seats were actually contested in Tuesday"s vote, which was overshadowed by protests over high prices and low wages.[44] The NDP has been fielding a candidate for every one of the 52,000 council seats up for grabs, with polls set to close at 7pm (1700 GMT).[12]

A security official confirmed the disqualifications but said around 30 figures believed to be connected to the Brotherhood were allowed to run. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. The Brotherhood is a banned organization and its candidates run officially as independents, though their allegiances are generally known.[16] Security sources said the men were accused of belonging to a banned group and possessing anti-government literature - accusations often used to justify Brotherhood detentions but that rarely result in formal charges.[33]

Egypt arrests Brotherhood members (Middle East News) Your browser does not support inline frames or is currently configured not to display inline frames.[26] Earlier, Bush complained about the conviction of another prominent opposition leader, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who has since fled Egypt. Since 1980, Egypt has been under a so-called Emergency Law, which gives its police and security services virtually carte blanche in arrests and detention of its citizens.[34] Egyptian security forces are pursuing two Sudanese men suspected of planning a terrorist attack at a resort in Sinai. It is assumed they entered Egypt through the Sudanese-Egyptian border and they are believed to be driving a small truck laden with explosives.[42]

The judge in the case said the report, by Ibrahim Eissa, editor of Egypt"s Al-Dustour, caused panic among foreign investors and threatened Egypt"s economy. This case is unremarkable given the recent history of Egypt"s contempt for press freedom - in fact, for all the freedoms we Americans still regard as our inalienable rights. It is arguably more remarkable in that, if the test of "spreading false information" were applied to American journalists, building more jails would be a higher priority than building new homes for Katrina victims. That said, however, the news of Mr. Eissa"s conviction gives us yet another example of the embarrassing double standards built into U.S. foreign policy.[34]

A heavy police presence helped ensure that a general strike went largely unheeded across Egypt on Sunday.[43] Egyptian calls for general strike trigger national police crackdown - World Welcome to The Age.[45] Egyptian bloggers have called for a second strike on May 4, which happens to be Mubarak"s 80th birthday.[15]



Several hundred young men massed in Mahalla al-Kobra"s main square on Monday, throwing rocks at a billboard of Mubarak and slashing it with knives before toppling it. Riot police charged the group, firing heavy volleys of tear gas, pulling some of the men to the pavement and beating them with batons or fists. [5] The Islamist movement won about a fifth of the seats in parliament in 2005, making it the de facto leading opposition group.[2] Whether the Brotherhood had won 21 out of 52,000 seats would have made no difference.[18]

SOURCES

1. News | Africa - Reuters.com
2. News | Africa - Reuters.com
3. Egypt"s Brotherhood Calls For Election Boycott | April 9, 2008 | AHN
4. EuroNewsEuroNews : Egypt: polls open amid an opposition boycott
5. The Associated Press: Police, Protesters Clash in North Egypt
6. Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Boycott Elections | Chatter Shmatter - Breaking News From Around The World
7. AFP: Egypt Islamists to boycott vote after clampdown
8. BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Egypt opposition boycotts polls
9. AKI - Adnkronos international Egypt: Islamist group to boycott local elections
10. Babylon & Beyond : Los Angeles Times : EGYPT: Another one-sided election
11. EuroNewsEuroNews : Egyptian local elections "a foregone conclusion"
12. Al Jazeera English - News - Egyptians Vote Amid Poll Boycott
13. The Media Line
14. Press TV - Egypt"s polls open with light turnout
15. Egypt elections proceed amid protests - Middle East Times
16. Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood opposition group urges boycott of municipal elections - International Herald Tribune
17. Muslim Brotherhood to boycott Egypt"s local polls - Middle East
18. Foregone Conclusion: Poor Turnout as Muslim Brotherhood Boycotts Egyptian Elections - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News
19. BBC NEWS | Middle East | Voter turnout low in tense Egypt
20. Egyptians largely stay away from polls in tightly-controlled municipal elections
21. Amid violent riots, Egyptian elections fizzle | csmonitor.com
22. AFP: Egypt vote ends with little excitement
23. Call for boycott mars Egyptian elections - UPI.com
24. JURIST - Paper Chase: Muslim Brotherhood urges boycott of Egypt municipal elections after activist arrests
25. VOA News - Low Turnout in Egypt Poll Amid Opposition Boycott, Labor Unrest
26. Egypt arrests Brotherhood members (Middle East News)
27. AFP: Clashes erupt anew in Egypt strike city
28. Protests in the smog | Comment is free
29. IOL: Egypt"s local elections start
30. RIA Novosti - World - Local elections start in Egypt amid food protests
31. Egypt moves to appease angry workers - Mideast/N. Africa - MSNBC.com
32. World Politics Review | As Egyptians Go to the Polls, Middle Class Discontent on the Rise
33. Islamists held on eve of Egyptian elections - World - theage.com.au
34. Eritrea News by Biddho.com - Rising To The Challenges! - Selling Democracy " De Lux Model with Double Standards Built In
35. Day of angry protest stuns Egypt - International Herald Tribune
36. BBC NEWS | Middle East | Egypt Islamists" wait for power
37. Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood urges boycott of municipal elections | Jerusalem Post
38. Latest News - Radio Netherlands Worldwide - English
39. China, meet Zimbabwe & Egypt! by Chris W. - one party states, pr campaigns, egypt | Gather
40. The Daily Star - Editorial - Egypt"s farcical elections can only hurt those who staged them
41. Islamist Group Pressures Egypt"s Ruling Party - Forbes.com
42. More Islamists seized ahead of Egyptian vote | Jerusalem Post
43. BBC NEWS | Have Your Say | Egyptian views on strike and poll
44. Al Jazeera English - News - Low Turnout In Egypt Elections
45. Egyptian calls for general strike trigger national police crackdown - World
46. Free Preview - WSJ.com
47. A Faltering Freedom Agenda
48. Q&A: Crossing the Red Lines in Egypt
49. Dar Al Hayat
50. Egypt tense on eve of elections - Radio Netherlands Worldwide - English
51. Merkato - Ethiopia - Walk, protest like Egyptians!!
52. Solidarity statement of Egypt"s Centre for Socialist Studies|12Apr08|Socialist Worker
53. The Media Line
54. Al Jazeera English - News - Clashes Break Out In Egypt Town


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