Egypt's ties with Israel boost Islamists

In Egypt's textile heartland, popular support for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in the parliamentary election has also fed off anti-Israeli sentiment since the government developed a trade agreement with the Jewish state.

    The Brotherhood has already secured 43 seats in parliament

    Voters in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla prepare to return to the polls on Saturday to elect MPs from among candidates involved in runoffs for the second phase of Egypt's month-long poll.
    The town, home to some 500,000 people, lies in Gharbiya governorate, where the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood fielded many candidates, two of whom won outright in the November 20 first round.
    "Yes, Islam is the solution," says Yasser Mahmud, who works in a local textile factory, which was recently included in Egypt's Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) programme, which gives products customs free access to the US market as long as they incorporate 11.7% of Israeli components.
    Trumpeted as a major trade boost for Egypt, the deal inked last year with Israel was met with widespread suspicion in a country where anti-semitism is rife.
    "This accord is a failure, except for the interests of the losing party," says Mahmud, referring to the National Democratic Party (NDP) led by President Hosni Mubarak.
    In the first three rounds of Egypt's six polling rounds, the Brotherhood candidates, standing as independents, have already secured 43 seats in parliament, nearly trebling its previous tally of 15 MPs. 



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