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Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood calls for election boycott

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition force, called on Egyptians on Monday to boycott local council elections due on Tuesday in protest at the disqualification of most of its candidates.

The group said its members had received more than 3 000 court rulings recognising their right to stand in the elections, and close to 900 court rulings ordering a halt to the ballots when the government failed to comply.

Husain Mohamed Ibrahim, deputy leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary block, said: ”There are court rulings that invalidate the president’s call for elections on April 8 in almost half the constituencies … we call on our public to boycott these rigged elections, which the judiciary has already ruled should not be held.”

”Participating in this farcical theatre would have given it legitimacy,” Brotherhood lawmaker Mohamed El-Beltaugi told a news conference to announce the boycott.

The government calls the Brotherhood a banned organisation but allows it to operate within limits. The Islamist movement won about a fifth of the seats in Parliament in 2005, making it the de facto leading opposition group.

Founded in 1928, it advocates turning Egypt into an Islamic state through the ballot box.

The local councils have little power, but the Brotherhood would need to have seats on provincial councils if it ever wanted to field an independent candidate for the Egyptian presidency.

Boycott

A statement by Brotherhood head Mohamed Mahdi Akef said: ”It has become manifestly clear that the party of corruption and oppression [the ruling National Democratic Party] fears any competition, even if limited.”

There was no immediate comment from Egypt’s government.

The authorities have disqualified all but 21 of several thousand candidates the Brotherhood wanted to field in the local elections, where 52 600 seats are at stake.

The Brotherhood also put an advertisement in the daily al-Dustour calling for the boycott.

”The Egyptian regime has practised every kind of obstruction, starting by preventing nominations, detaining more than 900 members of the Muslim Brotherhood and ignoring all the court rulings issued in favour of registering those disqualified [candidates],” the advertisement said.

The Brotherhood and Egypt’s major opposition groups boycotted a referendum on constitutional amendments in March 2007, and some independent observers put the turnout at as low as 3%.

Ibrahim said the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc would seek to hold the government accountable in Parliament for refusing to implement the court rulings.

International human rights groups and the United States administration have also criticised the way the Egyptian authorities have run the election preparations. — Reuters

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