Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood wins 29 more seats in violent runoff polls
Stunning result achieved despite low turnout, irregularities and clashes with police.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group captured 29 more seats in weekend parliamentary runoff polls, the group and Interior Ministry officials said Sunday, raising its total so far in the three-stage elections to more than five times the number of seats it holds in the outgoing parliament.
The stunning result was achieved despite low turnout, irregularities and clashes with police in what appeared to be a determined government effort to block opposition voters and curb the building momentum of the Islamic-based organization.
The Higher Election Committee said final results showed 115 candidates won seats in Saturday's runoffs from round two of the polling: 75 for the ruling National Democratic Party; 38 to independents; and two for the New Wafd opposition party. Judges stopped the elections in three constituencies for irregularities.
Senior Brotherhood official Ali Abdel Fattah said Sunday that 29 of the winning independents were members of the group, which gets around an official ban by fielding its candidates as independents. That number was confirmed by Interior Ministry officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.
The results announced so far showed the Brotherhood has increased its share in parliament to 76 seats, more than five times its representation in the outgoing parliament - with a third and final stage of voting still to go on Dec. 1, and a runoff likely six days after that.
The outcome could push the Brotherhood past the number of seats needed under new constitutional rules to nominate a presidential candidate in 2011.
Nongovernment organizations and judges monitoring Saturday's polls complained that security forces blocked thousands of the 10 million eligible voters from entering polling stations in nine provinces where 122 seats were in play after no candidate garnered more than half the vote in the second round of polling six days ago.
The Interior Ministry on Saturday denied that any polling centers were closed and that police were preventing voters casting ballots.
Outside some polling stations, armed backers of both Islamist and secular politicians engaged in fierce clashes. Abdel Fattah said police arrested 680 Brotherhood members and supporters nationwide on Saturday.
Several leaders from President Hosni Mubarak's NDP lost their seats, including the party's deputy chairman Youssef Wali; general secretariat member Mohammed Abdellah; and Ahmed Abu Zeid, former head of parliament's foreign affairs committee and president of Alexandria University.
The leftist Progressive National Unionist Party, or Al Tagammu, received the biggest blow when its founder, Khaled Mohieddin, and two other leading members lost their seats. Mohieddin, 83, who founded the secular party in 1975, was a member of the military junta that toppled the monarchy in 1952. The party had six members in parliament.
With Saturday's vote, the Brotherhood - Egypt's largest Islamist group - has 76 seats; the NDP had 197 seats and 28 went to other candidates in voting that began Nov. 9.
The Muslim Brotherhood was banned in 1954 and later that year accused of trying to assassinate then-Interior Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser, who became president in 1956. It renounced violence in the 1970s and gets around the ban on its activities by fielding candidates as nominal independents whose Islamic-based positions and sympathies are well known to voters.
The Brotherhood's platform is based on a vague call for the implementation of Islamic law in the Arab world's largest nation. It advocates the veil for women and campaigns against perceived immorality in the media, but the group insists it represents a more moderate face of Islam than that followed in deeply conservative Saudi Arabia.