Opposition cries foul in Egyptian election

Opposition charges of ballot stuffing, bullying and dirty tricks clouded a parliamentary election in Egypt in which the ruling party wants to prevent its Islamist rivals from repeating their 2005 success.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Sun 28 Nov 2010, 6:54 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:19 AM

Some voters were turned away by officials saying there was no election or that polling booths had shut. Others reported finding ballot boxes stuffed to the brim minutes after voting began, rights groups and opposition campaigners said.

The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidates must run as independents, is contesting 30 percent of seats in the lower house where it won an unprecedented 20 percent in 2005.

But even senior Islamists expect a lower total this time, with the government determined to squeeze its most vocal critics out of parliament before a presidential vote in 2011.

‘There’s no voting going on, just rigging. It’s a disgrace. May those who rig votes be crippled,’ said Hassan Sallam as he emerged from a polling booth at Raml, in the northern city of Alexandria. ‘There was no privacy. The ballot boxes were full.’

Abdel-Salam Mahgoub, the candidate for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in that constituency, denied any abuses.

‘These are accusations from people looking for an excuse to cover their failure,’ he told Reuters. Brotherhood supporters chanted ‘Void, void’ as NDP supporters walked in to vote.

The Brotherhood candidate, Subhi Saleh, accused his NDP rival of distributing ‘outrageous’ fake pamphlets in his own name that said falsely that he was quitting the election. ‘If we bring our people to the street and collide with those behind this pamphlet there will be a death toll,’ said Saleh.


In Gharbiya, in the Nile Delta, Brotherhood campaigners said hired thugs had blocked them from monitoring the elections. When some voters threw stones and tried to push their way into a polling station, police expelled them, witnesses said.

The government has promised a free and fair election.

‘The complaints we have received so far are not serious and are not a handicap to the process, which is going very smoothly,’ said Sameh el-Kashef, spokesman for the High Elections Commission, a body of judges and parliament nominees.

The result of Sunday’s poll is not in doubt, only the size of the majority for President Hosni Mubarak’s NDP, which has never lost an election. Many Egyptians see no point voting.

‘I won’t vote. I don’t approve of this regime. Whoever I vote for, the government will put in who they want,’ said Shehta, 42, a taxi driver who would not give his full name.

The official turnout in the 2005 election was 22 percent. Rights groups put it at 12 percent.

In Cairo, voting appeared very thin at a dozen polling stations around the capital, where only a handful of people were waiting to cast ballots, with a few policemen on guard duty.

The government has rejected calls by Egypt’s main ally and aid donor, the United States, to allow international monitors.

The two-round election in which 508 seats are at stake, with 10 more appointed by the president, may offer a foretaste of how the government conducts next year’s presidential vote. Mubarak, in power since 1981, has not said if he will run again.

Voting began at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) and ends at 7 p.m. (1700). The run-off will take place on Dec. 5 for districts where no candidate won more than 50 percent in the first leg.

In Mahalla El Kubra in the Nile Delta north of Cairo, the scene of sporadic labour unrest, Brotherhood activists said police and thugs closed three polling stations soon after they had opened, saying all registered voters had cast their ballots.

‘I swear to God, there will be a catastrophe in Mahalla and it will be your responsibility,’ Mahalla’s Brotherhood lawmaker Saad Al Hosainy shouted at police.

Four people were killed and 30 wounded in pre-election violence, according to the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights. Fourteen people were killed in the 2005 poll when voting was staggered over about a month.

Several casualties were reported in the Nile Delta on Sunday, including the overnight stabbing of the son of an independent candidate in Matariya. Police denied the killing was election-related. One voter died of a heart attack outside a polling station in Minufiya, a security source said. The brother of an independent candidate was shot and wounded in Mansoura.

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