Egyptian Polls Open Despite Boycotts By Opposition Parties

Egyptians went to the polls Sunday for a second round of parliamentary elections, even though two major opposition parties are boycotting the vote in protest at what they called cheating in the first round last week.

(CNN)

Many Egyptian voters claim fraud and vote irregularities during the parliamentary elections

Egyptians went to the polls Sunday for a second round of parliamentary elections, even though two major opposition parties are boycotting the vote in protest at what they called cheating in the first round last week.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition bloc, announced their boycott Wednesday. The Wafd party followed suit later, it announced.

The Muslim Brotherhood's website dismissed Sunday's run-off vote, saying most schoolchildren would remember it as nothing more than a day off school.

"In the 2005 elections it was more difficult to stuff ballot boxes because judges were inside the polling stations, but in 2010 there are no judges present," the group said in a statement on its website. "Instead, the High Elections Commission, which is made up of government-appointed judges and parliament nominees, now has the job of supervising the electoral process."

The party was wiped out in the first round of voting Sunday, going from 88 seats in the legislature to zero.

Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party won 217 seats in the first round of voting, the semi-official Al-Ahram newspaper said.

The opposition parties won a mere handful of seats in the 508-seat parliament.

Twenty-seven candidates affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood qualified for runoff elections. Muslim Brotherhood candidates run as independents because the group is illegal under to Egyptian law, which bans parties based on religion.

The runoff will involve 566 candidates, 377 of whom come from the National Democratic Party of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Just over 29 million people are eligible to vote in the elections for 283 seats. Fourteen of those seats are reserved for women.

On Tuesday, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama criticized the elections, saying there had been "numerous reported irregularities" and "restrictions on basic freedoms."

National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer called the reports "worrying" and said the United States is "disappointed."

Critics had predicted that Sunday's race would be tainted by fraud and intimidation, but the government declared it "a success."

Egypt's official MENA news service reported that 6,000 members of 76 civil groups monitored the elections. The country rejected international monitoring of the vote as interference in its internal affairs.

Egyptian election commission spokesman Sameh al-Kashef said last week that although the committee had received numerous complaints, irregularities did not affect the results of the election.

The complaints included reports of riots, fraud and forgery; denying citizens their right to vote; and difficulties faced by the media. There were riots in 16 constituencies, Kashef said.