First Round Of Egyptian Election Put Islamists Out Of Parliament

(NYTIMES)

As the results of Egypt’s parliamentary elections trickled in Tuesday, no one was surprised that the governing party of President Hosni Mubarak won a huge victory. Nor were they surprised that the candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s only sizable opposition, took a beating.

What did surprise some was the Brotherhood’s share of seats in the new Parliament: zero. The Brotherhood, an Islamist movement with 88 seats in the current body and a vast following among Egypt’s 83 million people was reduced to political nonexistence, at least for the first round of voting. The handful of other opposition parties won only a tiny sprinkling of seats.

“At least get creative in how you rig the elections,” said Hisham Kassem, a newspaper publisher and human rights advocate. “I was expecting a few more seats for the opposition.”

The numbers could change: 26 Brotherhood candidates will be in runoffs set for Sunday. But the Brotherhood and other opposition groups seemed to view the early results as a sign that the governing National Democratic Party, intent on tightening its grip ahead of next year’s presidential elections, was orchestrating a near-monopoly in Parliament’s 518-member lower house.

The government shrugged off the accusations of fraud, saying that only 1.4 percent of ballot boxes were disqualified in last Sunday’s vote. Turnout was about 35 percent, high for Egyptian elections, and 14 million voters took part, said Sameh al-Kashef, a spokesman for the government-appointed commission overseeing the elections.
ALJAZEERA