Mubarak’s party poised for sweeping poll triumph

Egypt on Tuesday awaited the final results of a parliamentary election that are set to deliver sweeping gains for President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party and all but demolish the Islamist opposition.

Rights groups claim the vote was marked by widespread instances of violence and fraud, while the United States voiced concern over “intimidation by security forces” on election day.

According to government daily Al-Ahram, the National Democratic Party (NDP) won more than 170 of 508 parliamentary seats outright while the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s main opposition party, failed to win a single seat outright.

Al-Ahram and Al-Masri Al-Yom newspapers said the secular opposition only won six seats, three of which went to the liberal Wafd party.

Wafd demanded that the election commission delay the announcement of results until it has investigated voting complaints, saying in a statement that the government had not respected “the presidential promise to guarantee transparent elections”.

Official results are expected later on Tuesday.

“An assembly without opposition,” ran the headline of independent daily Al-Shuruk, adding that in the second-round run-off on Sunday, “the NDP will essentially be competing against itself”.

Egyptians voted last Sunday for the 508 elected seats in the lower house, or People’s Assembly, many of which were contested by rival NDP candidates.

Egyptian monitoring groups reported deadly violence, vote rigging and intimidation of opposition candidates across Egypt on Sunday.

The government insists the vote was fair, although Egypt’s interior ministry reported at least three people were killed by gunfire in election clashes between supporters of rival candidates.

‘Rigged and invalid’
An independent candidate’s son was also killed in Cairo’s Matariya district on Saturday, with his family saying he was stabbed while putting up posters of his father. Police said he was killed in a dispute over a woman.

The United States said late on Monday that it was disappointed and dismayed over reports of interference, intimidation and other problems in Egypt’s parliamentary election.

“We are disappointed by reports in the pre-election period of disruption of campaign activities of opposition candidates and arrests of their supporters,” said State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley.

“We are also dismayed by reports of election-day interference and intimidation by security forces,” Crowley added.

The Muslim Brotherhood denounced the vote as “rigged and invalid”.

The Islamist group said it failed to win any seats outright in the first round of voting and that just 21 of its candidates were sure of making it into Sunday’s run-offs.

The Islamists, who won 88 seats in the last elections in 2005, fielded 130 candidates on Sunday, compared with about 800 for the NDP, after more than a dozen of its candidates were disqualified and at least 1 200 of its supporters arrested.

Authorities put turnout in the election at around 10-million but the head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, Hafez Abu Saada, said no more than 15% of the country’s 41-million registered electors had cast a vote. – AFP

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