Egypt's Islamists may withdraw from vote
Cairo, November 30, 2010
The Muslim Brotherhood said on Tuesday it might withdraw from Egypt's parliamentary election after failing to win a single seat in a first round of voting it said was rigged in favour of President Hosni Mubarak's party.
The group, which is outlawed by a ban on religious parties, had 88 seats in the outgoing parliament, about a fifth of the assembly, making it by far the biggest opposition bloc.
After winning no seats outright in Sunday's poll, it said 26 of its candidates made it to run-offs to be held on December 5. It had earlier put the number at 27. The group fields candidates as independents to skirt the ban.
Analysts have said the government wants to push its Islamist critics to the margins of formal politics before next year's presidential race. Mubarak, 82, in power since 1981, has not said if he will run again in 2011.
"We are currently discussing whether we will continue to run in the run-off or withdraw," Essam al-Erian, a senior member of the Brotherhood, told Reuters after a news conference.
Rights groups and the opposition accused the authorities of ballot stuffing, bullying and other fraudulent tactics in Sunday's first round. The government said voting was fair and any abuses were not serious enough to undermine the election.
The United States, Egypt's ally and a major aid donor, said it was "dismayed" by reports of voting abuses.
Official first-round results are due out later on Tuesday. "What happened on Sunday was catastrophic. According to our survey, polling stations in which vote-rigging took place had a 97 percent turnout," Saad Al-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood's bloc in the outgoing parliament, told a news conference. He has lost a seat he won in 2005 with a hefty majority.
Turnout was officially put at 25 percent. Rights groups who sent monitors to polling stations said it was half that.
Mubarak's National Democratic Party had been expected to secure a majority in parliament, as it has for decades. State media have said results so far indicate the ruling party was cruising to victory.
Mubarak's government has long been wary of any group with Islamist leanings. It quelled an Islamic insurgency in the 1990s and Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat was gunned down by Islamic militants during a military parade in 1981.
The Brotherhood renounced violence as a way to achieve political change in Egypt decades ago. The group says it wants a democratic Islamic state.
In this election, 508 seats were up for grabs, with a further 10 appointed by the president, giving parliament a total of 518 seats comnpared with 454 in the outgoing assembly. Extra seats reserved for women have been added.
A spokeswoman for the liberal Wafd party said her group had secured three seats in the first round -- fewer than it previously claimed -- with a further nine going to a run-off.
Wafd had 12 seats in the outgoing assembly, making it the second biggest opposition group.
Three other opposition parties won a seat each in the first round, egynews.net said. Some seats have been won by independents. - Reuters