Khairat el-Shater, blamed the group’s poor performance yesterday on the government.
|Saturday, December 3,2005 00:00|
The leading opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, won no seats in the final round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections after police barred thousands of its supporters from casting ballots, according to official results announced today.
But 35 Brotherhood candidates won places in run-off elections next week to decide seats where nobody got more than half the vote in yesterday’s polls.
Announcing the results, Judge Intissar Nassim of the Electoral Commission told reporters the ruling National Democratic Party won four seats yesterday, independent candidates took four seats and the secular opposition Wafd Party one.
The run-offs, to be held on Wednesday, will decide the remaining 127 seats.
Yesterday was the first time in the three-stage elections, which began on November 9, that Brotherhood candidates failed to win a single seat before the run-offs.
The voting was marred by violence, with police clashing with voters and blockading polling stations in Brotherhood and other opposition strongholds. In many cases police let in only those who promised to vote for NDP candidates. One person was shot dead when police opened fire on a crowd of voters pushing to enter a polling station in the Nile Delta province of Kafr el-Sheik.
Considered a test of President Hosni Mubarak’s openness to reform, the election has turned into a battle between the government and the Brotherhood. Initially the state gave the group considerable leeway to campaign, but it has cracked down as the Brotherhood did surprisingly well, winning 76 seats in the first two rounds – a five-fold increase from its share in the outgoing assembly.
After yesterday’s vote, the ruling NDP has 201 seats.
A liberal group of judges today threatened to boycott monitoring the run-off round to protest the police blockades of polling stations. Judge Ahmed Mekki said in a statement that the Judges Club will meet on Sunday to decide whether to boycott.
Mekki accused the police of allowing “thugs” to assault judges in some polling stations.
Judges are assigned by the government to monitor voting inside the stations. But they have no control of what goes on outside the stations, leaving an opportunity for security forces to bar voters from entering.
The Interior Ministry yesterday accused Brotherhood supporters of attacking judges and accused the group of sparking most of the violence that marred the polls.
The Brotherhood’s deputy leader, Khairat el-Shater, blamed the group’s poor performance yesterday on the government.
“They don’t want us to exceed 20% of the seats (in parliament) in order to retain a comfortable majority for themselves,” el-Shater said. The National Democratic Party, which has long dominated parliament, held 85% of the outgoing 454-member assembly.
El-Shater pointed to the arrest of 500 Brotherhood supporters ahead of the voting and accused the government of manipulating the count.
The most dangerous thing about the elections is “the people’s frustration and loss of hope, the feeling that peaceful change is blocked, which will result in more violence,” said el-Shater.
Police said 170 people were wounded in clashes outside polling stations yesterday. The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights gave a similar figure - 175 wounded.
Some Egyptian newspapers criticised the government today for the police conduct.
The independent El-Masri el-Yom ran the banner headline “Barring voters is the solution,” making a play on the Brotherhood’s campaign slogan of “Islam is the solution.”
The Wafd paper, which supports the opposition party of the same name, ran the sarcastic headline “Voting for National Party ... Only.”
Its editorial said that after irregularities in the second round, it had expected yesterday’s polling to be cleaner, “but it was more violent. There were more assaults from all sides.”
In the worst clash yesterday, police blockading a polling station in Balteem, Kafr el-Sheik, fired tear gas and would-be voters hurled stones. Finally, the police opened fire, killing one man and wounding 60 people, said Mohammed el-Ashqar, a campaign worker for the Nasserite opposition candidate. It was the second violent death since the elections began.
Pro-government supporters attacked voters with clubs and knives at a polling station in the Delta city of Mansoura, a Brotherhood stronghold. In the nearby town of Bussat, determined voters went round to the back of the polling station and used ladders to climb over the wall as police blocked the entrance.