Government Sweeps Elections in Contests Marred by Fraud, Violence
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ The government won a two-thirds majority Thursday in parliamentary elections that left opposition parties with just a handful of seats. Islamic activists warned their frustrated supporters might resort to violence.
Final results from Wednesday’s runoffs, along with the Nov. 29 election, gave the ruling National Democratic Party 317 of 444 seats in the People’s Assembly, or parliament.
Candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic group and the government’s main opponent, won only a single seat. Other opposition parties won just 13 _ one of their poorest showings since President Hosni Mubarak took power in 1981.
Independents, many of them government supporters or former members of the ruling party, won the rest, and 99 of them joined the ruling party late Thursday after the results were announced, the al-Ahram newspaper reported.
``From the start, the whole thing was ridiculous,″ said Ibrahim Abaza, deputy secretary-general of the liberal Wafd party, which picked up six seats. ``It proves the corruption of the government and the need for immediate political reforms.″
No one, including opposition parties, doubted the government would win a two-thirds majority, but opposition parties accused Mubarak of breaking a promise to hold a fair ballot.
Across the political spectrum, opposition parties complained of vote fraud, including arrests of their election monitors, ballot-box stuffing and barring supporters from polling stations.
Independent monitoring groups confirmed dozens of violations, but the government declared the voting free.
The U.S. State Department pointedly refused to call last week’s election free.
``A mercy killing of democracy,″ read the headline Thursday in the newspaper of the opposition Liberal Party.
Violence marred both stages of the elections. At least 15 people were killed, dozens were wounded and more than 100 arrested during runoff elections Wednesday when gangs of rival supporters clashed across the country with guns, knives and sticks. In the first round of balloting, at least 18 people were killed.
On Thursday, police fired tear gas and shot at protesters who accused the government-backed candidate of rigging an election in Sharqiyya in the Nile delta. Three policemen were reported injured.
Earlier, protesters burned tires across main roads and set fire to cars, buses and some government buildings, police said. Police arrested 21 people.
Adel Hussein, secretary-general of the Labor Party, which was allied with the Brotherhood in the elections, said the perception that the elections were rigged would lead to more trouble.
``Violence will increase and underground activities will increase because legal opposition is over,″ he said.
The government hailed the elections as a testament to the ruling party’s popularity _ and the lack of appeal of opposition candidates. The Interior Ministry, which ran the elections, acknowledged some violations but called the ballot a success.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which renounced violence in the 1970s, calls for the imposition of Islamic law but has said it supports multiparty democracy and would treat Egypt’s Christians as equals. About 150 candidates ran under its banner, and 30 advanced to the runoffs. But only Ali Fath el-Bab, a Brotherhood member in southern Egypt who ran as an independent, won a seat.
Before the elections, the government arrested hundreds of Brotherhood supporters and sentenced many of its top leaders to up to five years in jail at hard labor.
Government officials tried to link the Brotherhood, which is officially banned, to Muslim militants fighting to overthrow the government.
In other returns, the leftist Tagammua won five seats, the Liberal Party one and the Democratic Nasserist Party one.
The Interior Ministry said 50 percent of eligible voters took part in both elections.