Ruling Party, Independents Sweep Egyptian Elections
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Government-backed candidates won nearly a two-thirds majority in Egypt’s parliament, according to early returns today from runoff elections that opposition candidates complained were rigged.
Unofficial results gave candidates of President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party 157 of 306 seats decided in Wednesday’s elections. Independents, many of them government supporters, won 89 seats.
Opposition candidates won just nine seats, although ballots in 51 races have yet to be counted. Opposition candidates won no seats in the first round last week.
``From the start, the whole thing was ridiculous,″ said Ibrahim Abaza, deputy secretary-general of the liberal Wafd party, which won at least five seats. ``It proves the corruption of the government and the need for immediate political reforms.″
At least 15 people were killed, dozens were wounded and more than 100 arrested during the runoffs Wednesday when gangs of rival supporters clashed across the country with guns, knives and sticks.
Today, police fired bullets and tear gas at protesters who accused the government-backed candidate of rigging the election in Sharqiyya in the Nile delta. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Earlier in Sharqiyya, police said, protesters burned tires across main roads and set fire to cars and some government buildings.
The government called both rounds of elections free and fair and said the ruling party’s success demonstrated its popularity.
But 10 Islamic candidates on Wednesday abruptly withdrew from races, saying their opponents were stuffing ballot boxes, busing in supporters and barring election monitors from polling stations.
``I will only serve as a trapping of democracy if I go through with the counting of the votes,″ said Abdel-Qawi el-Sisi, a candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered Egypt’s largest Islamic group.
In returns today, both government ministers facing runoffs were reported winners. A candidate for the Wafd party who was shot and slightly wounded Tuesday won in a poor Cairo neighborhood.
The results gave the ruling party 281 of 444 seats _ the nearly two-thirds majority they were expected to win. Independents have won 103 seats; many of them are government supporters.
No one, including opposition parties, doubted the government would win a majority. But opposition parties accused Mubarak of violating a promise to hold a fair ballot.
The U.S. State Department pointedly refused to call last week’s election free.
``A mercy killing of democracy,″ read the headline today in the newspaper of the opposition Liberal Party.
``The government confirmed yesterday that change is not possible through elections,″ it said.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights urged Mubarak to cancel the elections because of the reports of fraud.
In the months leading up to the elections, the contest was seen as a struggle between the ruling party on one side, and the Brotherhood and its allies in the Islamic-oriented Labor Party on the other. The Brotherhood ran 150 candidates and about 30 entered runoffs, but there was no word today whether any of them had won.
Since January, the government has cracked down on the Brotherhood, arresting hundreds of its members, imprisoning its most impressive leaders and closing its headquarters in Cairo.
Although officially banned, the group had long been tolerated. It says it has renounced violence and supports multiparty democracy.
But the government has sought to link it with Muslim militants fighting in southern Egypt to overthrow the government and install Islamic rule. More than 850 people have been killed in the strife since 1992.