Egyptian Polls Turn Deadly, Police Hinder Voting
|Thursday, December 1,2005 00:00|
Egyptian Polls Turn Deadly, Police Hinder Voting
The third and last round of Egypt’s legislative elections turned bloody Thursday, December 1, after security forces killed one citizen and wounded more than seventy others and blocked thousands of voters from casting their ballot, prompting judges supervising the process to threaten a walk-out.
In the northern Nile Delta town of Baltim, a man identified as Gomaa Saeed al-Zeftawi, 55, was killed after a tear gas canister hit his chest.
He was a supporter of Hamdeen Sabahi, Arab Dignity party founder, says IslamOnline.net’s correspondent.
Medical sources and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said he was killed by police, who responded to stone-throwing with rubber bullets and eventually live rounds.
A driver of an independent candidate was killed in Alexandria in the second stage of elections.
The two previous rounds of voting says the officially banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood secure 79 seats in the new parliament.
The ruling National Democratic Party’s dominance in parliament is not at risk, but the seemingly inexorable rise of the Brotherhood has thrown the issue of their legalization as a party wide open.
Tempers flared as voters were prevented from reaching polling stations in several constituencies.
Voters of all ages and sexes were seen in many villages climbing over walls with rickety wooden ladders to enter polling stations whose main entrances were blocked off by phalanxes of riot police.
The Brotherhoods accused security forces of preventing voters from casting their ballot to prevent the group from building on its splendid gains so far.
"The security forces do not allow voters to reach the ballot boxes in Mansoura constituency except when they show NDP membership cards or when they carry the billboards of NDP candidates," the groups said in a statement.
In Dakahlia, central Delta, where 18 Muslim Brotherhood members are running the race reports by different civil society groups and human rights organizations accused policemen of curbing the voting.
"Security forces did not open the polling stations in several constituencies, and cordoned others to bar candidates from reaching the balloting boxes," according to an IOL correspondent on the ground.
In the northern Delta city of Damietta, security forces blocked most of the polling stations.
In Sharkiya’s Hahya constituency, IOL correspondent said security forces barring all voters, specially supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, while other stations were open before voters.
In the Nile Delta governorate of Kafr el-Sheikh, Sawasiya human rights center said five polling stations were sealed off by security forces.
The group said some 668 of its supporters were arrested over the past three days, most of them local campaign managers or volunteers tasked with mobilizing voters.
In Mansoura, IOL correspondent said the group’s supporters gathered in the streets around the polling station to protest the police practices.
Thugs armed with clubs and empty bottles assaulted the voters who seemed willing to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood candidates.
"Bottles were thrown in the air to fall on the ground and break to hurt people, while others fall on the heads of supporters of the Brotherhood," according to an IOL correspondent.
In Dakahliya’s Atmeed constituency, where MB candidate Shafiq el-Deep competes NDP’s Abdel-Wahab el-Adli and independent candidate Murtada Mansour thugs threatened supporters of the MB from nearing the polling stations over loudspeakers.
In the upper Egyptian constituency of Tama, Sawasiya center representative Islam Tawfiq was attacked by thugs backed by a police office identified as "Wissam", and his camera was confiscated and film destroyed.
Egyptian judges have threatened Thursday to walk out "in case the intimidation of voters continued."
"We will stop supervising the third stage of balloting in case psychological and physical pressures exercised on the voters’ continued," Zakariya Abdel Aziz, head of the Egyptian Judges Union, told IOL.
"The main electoral committee in each constituency has the right to cancel the voting in view of intimidation against the voters," he stressed.
The union’s election follow up and evaluation committee chairman Ahmed Mekki agreed.
"Barring voters from reaching the voting stations by security forces was reported, specially in the Nile Delta governorates," he said.
Sawasiya human rights center reported Thursday three judges, Khaled Abdel-Aziz, Hani Mukhtar and Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, were assaulted by thugs under the nose of policemen.
Yet, no judges were reported to have quit overseeing the elections.
Judges have mounted an unprecedented challenge against the state, securing more guarantees of transparency and publicly denouncing irregularities in the previous rounds.
The union had vowed to post some of its members in the streets to ensure access so polling stations but their action appeared to have had little impact.
Last week, the Judges Union pressed for army protection to shield its members against attacks by thugs in the current parliamentary elections.
The violations reported by opposition parties, journalists and independent monitors in last week’s second phase runoffs have raised concerns with some Western countries.
A senior British Embassy diplomat was touring a number of polling stations in the northern governorate of Kafr el-Sheikh, according to Aljazeera news channel.
It said the diplomat seemed on a mission to observe the voting, after reports on wide-scale violence, vote-buying and police intimidation in the two previous stages.
IslamOnline.net also learnt that two member of the ruling Labour Party in Britain will visit Cairo on December 5-7 for meetings on the election process in the most populous Arab state.
Washington, a close alley of the Egyptian regime, has urged Cairo to provide an atmosphere allowing voters to cast ballot without the threat of violence.
"The Egyptian government has a responsibility to provide an atmosphere for its people in which they can feel as though they are not encumbered, they are not barred from or under the threat of violence or coercion," said US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack Wednesday, November 30.
IOL Correspondents Nasiba Dawood, Wesam Al-Dowaik, Samer Elatrash, Ahmed Fathy and Hamdy Al Husseini contributed to this story.