Egypt protest vote helps Brotherhood

The deep, filthy puddles in the streets leading to Belkina's polling station remind some villagers to vote against Egypt's rulers when they get there.

    Some Egyptians said they voted in protest against corruption

    Mustafa Basyouny said the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) had failed to deliver a decent sewage system, asphalt roads or electricity to the Nile Delta village, where piles of rubbish litter the dirt roads.
      
    So he voted for the Muslim Brotherhood - the Islamist opposition group whose strong performance in the parliamentary polls has surprised even its own leaders.

    "The NDP sits on its seats and sleeps," Basyouny said. "It works for its own interests."
      
    Many Egyptians say they are voting for the Brotherhood to protest against paltry wages, poor services, inequality and the corruption they see in government.
     
    The Brotherhood has won 76 seats, more than five times its strength in the outgoing parliament. About one-third of the chamber's 444 seats have yet to be decided in two more days of voting.

    Brotherhood leader Essam al-Erian said protest votes could account for a fifth to a quarter of the support for his group.
     
    "Change is the most important thing," said Tarek al-Gamal, a 27-year-old teacher who voted for the Brotherhood. "The Brotherhood's programme is not clear to most people."

    Political freedoms

    Campaigning under the slogan "Islam is the Solution", the group, founded in 1928, says it will work for more political freedoms and to bring legislation closer to Islamic law.

    Hosni Mubarak has been
    president since 1981

    Although it is officially banned, the Brotherhood is much stronger than any of the secular opposition parties.

    "I'd vote for anything that's against the NDP," said Mohamed Hassan, a teacher who voted Brotherhood in the rural village of Hayatim.

    He says his monthly wage of 188 Egyptian pounds ($33) is not enough to feed his children properly.

    "They only eat meat once every five months," he said. "The poor are very, very poor and the rich are extremely rich."

    Bribery

    The NDP, whose leader President Hosni Mubarak has ruled Egypt since 1981, has won 195 seats in the elections.

    "I've known them for many years and I know they are good people. They feel they are doing this for God and only for God"

    Sally Saeed,
    Muslim Brotherhood supporter

    Independent monitors say the NDP, which enjoys the support of big business, has widely resorted to bribery and coercion to get out the vote. The NDP denies that.

    Most of the Brotherhood's electoral support has come from its dedicated base of activists, who are largely from lower middle-class backgrounds. Some have family ties to the group.

    "I've known them for many years and I know they are good people. They feel they are doing this for God and only for God," said Sally Saeed, a fully veiled Brotherhood supporter handing out campaign leaflets at a Cairo polling station. 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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