Islamist opposition wins record 19 percent of Egypt's parliament

Elections became violent as police tried to stop voters from reaching polls in Muslim Brotherhood strongholds.

egypt elections 298 (photo credit: )
egypt elections 298
(photo credit: )
Preliminary results in Egypt's elections Thursday gave the leading opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, a record 19 percent of parliament, with the ruling party and its allies holding an overwhelming majority after a four-week election with unprecedented political violence. The results leaked by an official in the Interior Ministry, which oversaw the election, came a day after no fewer than eight people were killed as police battled to stop voters reaching polling stations in Muslim Brotherhood strongholds. In Wednesday's polling, the Brotherhood won 12 seats, the National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak and its allies took 111 seats, and the opposition front two seats, said the ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press. Two more seats remain undecided. If confirmed, the tolls from Wednesday's runoffs would give the ruling NDP and its allies 333 seats, or 73 percent of parliament, and the Brotherhood 88 seats. Other opposition parties and independents would have 21 seats. A total of 12 seats are undecided and reruns are expected to be held. The parliament holds 454 seats of which 10 are appointed by the president - a privilege that tends to be used to increase the representation of women and the Coptic Christian minority. The results mean the Brotherhood - a group that is banned but tolerated with restriction - has won almost six times the 15 seats it held in the outgoing assembly. Under US pressure to bring about democratic reform, President Mubarak gave the Brotherhood unusual leeway in the campaign, but his security forces cracked down after the first round of polling on Nov. 9 when it became evident that the Islamic group had far more popular support than expected. In Wednesday's polling, as in the second and third rounds, lines of police officers in riot gear blockaded numerous polling stations in opposition strongholds. Supporters of the banned Brotherhood fought back, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails and cornering security forces in some towns. Wednesday's toll of eight dead brought the death toll to 10 people. Hundreds have been wounded and more than 1,000 arrested, mainly supporters of the Brotherhood. The United States had criticized the level of violence even before Wednesday's fatalities. "We've seen a number of developments over the past couple weeks during the parliamentary elections that raise serious concerns about the path of political reform in Egypt," US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Tuesday. The fighting between would-be voters on the one hand, and police and government supporters was particularly severe in the Nile Delta on Wednesday. Government supporters, some armed with machetes, got out of an armored police vehicle in the Delta city of Zagazig, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Cairo, and attacked voters who had been pushing to break through police lines outside a polling station. AP Photographer Amr Nabil was wounded in Zagazig and hospitalized in Cairo. A 14-year-old boy, Mohammed Karam el-Taher, was killed when police fired at the demonstrators in Qattawiya, a village in the Nile Delta province of el-Sharqiya. Another demonstrator in the same village, Mohammed Ahmed Mahdi, 22, died of gunshot wounds to the head. In the southern city of Sohag, up to 400 voters waited for hours outside the Mohammed Farid School polling station but were blocked from entering by lines of police. "They say the school is closed. They want to allow only NDP supporters to vote here. I'm very upset. This injustice must stop," said Abdel Moneim, 55, a greengrocer. Interior Ministry spokesman Ibrahim Hammad denied that police were blockading polling stations, saying the police were protecting the stations and "helping the voters to reach the ballot box." In the outgoing parliament, the NDP had 398 seats, the Brotherhood controlled 15, independents held 23 and opposition legislators had 16. The Muslim Brotherhood calls for implementing Islamic law but is vague about what that means. It campaigns for headscarves for women and against immodest dress, for example, but it insists it stands for a more moderate version of Islam than that followed in Saudi Arabia.