Egypt Election Derided As Less Free Than Fraudulent 2005 Vote

Ahead of today's Egypt election, officials from the country's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and its leader, President Hosni Mubarak, said they wanted a free and open contest. Yes, officials admitted, the Muslim Brotherhood -- Egypt's most powerful opposition group -- had a number of candidates disqualified from their ballot, and their campaigns were dogged by police disruption. But officials said that was because religious political parties are banned under Egyptian law. All other challengers, they said, were welcome to take their best shot at the powerful NDP, the cornerstone of Mr. Mubarak's 29-year rule here.

The secular, free market-friendly and highly-telegenic Ms. Ismail -- she was a longtime television presenter -- would seem to come from NDP central casting for an ""acceptable opposition figure."" But the day before the election, 40 percent of her observers were told they wouldn't be able to monitor the voting, leaving many polling stations monitored from within only by representatives of her NDP opponent. For weeks, she's complained of vote buying by her opponent for the seat representing Cairo's strategic Qasr El Nil district.

And this morning, she found her number on the ballot had been switched form 18 to 14. Her campaign literature had reminded voters to pick ""18,"" something crucial in a country where many voters are only partially literate, if at all.

“It’s very clear that there is rigging of votes, [that] there are violations,” says the former wife of Egyptian presidential candidate Ayman Nour, who was jailed after his 2005 run against Mubarak. “It’s chaotic and disorganized.”"