US questions 'fairness, transparency' of Egypt elections

State Department expresses disappointment after reported arrests and intimidation of opposition supporters and banning of monitors.

Egypt election campaign 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Egypt election campaign 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
The Obama administration on Monday raised serious questions about the fairness of Egypt's weekend parliamentary elections, saying it was disappointed by widespread reports of irregularities that cast doubt on the credibility of the polls in the strong US ally.
The State Department said it had closely followed the campaign and Sunday's polling and was concerned by arrests and intimidation of opposition supporters, denial of media access to opposition candidates and Egypt's refusal to allow international monitors to observe the vote.

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"These irregularities call into question the fairness and transparency of the process," spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement.
Earlier Monday, protesters set fire to cars, tires and two polling stations and clashed with police firing tear gas in riots over allegations that Egypt's ruling party committed widespread fraud to sweep the elections. Though official results are not due until Tuesday, opposition supporters around the country took to the streets in anger after hearing word their favorites lost amid allegations of massive vote-rigging.
Egypt is a key US ally in the Middle East and receives billions of dollars a year in US assistance. It is also a major player in now-stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, an important foreign policy initiative for President Barack Obama who delivered a major speech on US relations with the Muslim world in Cairo last year.
Crowley said that despite its concerns, the United States wanted to work with the Egyptian government and civic groups "to help them achieve their political, social and economic aspirations."
But he added that: "Egyptians will only have full confidence in their elections when the government is able to address existing flaws and ensure full and transparent access by independent civil society monitors and candidate representatives to all phases of the electoral process."
Egypt had already angrily rejected US criticism of its refusal to allow foreign monitors to observe the polls, accusing Washington of interfering in its internal affairs.