Brotherhood gains ground in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood has won 29 seats in the Egyptian parliament despite restrictions on voting and arrests of its supporters.

    Brotherhood supporters say they were stopped from voting

    Official results on Sunday showed that the Islamist group has won a total of 76 seats so far, more than five

    times the number it held in the outgoing chamber.

    About a third

    of parliament's 444 elected places have still to be decided. 

    The Brotherhood, which is banned but tolerated, is contesting only a third

    of the seats, not posing a challenge to control over parliament

    by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which won 75

    places in voting on Saturday, bringing its total to 195.

    But the Brotherhood's wins have shown the weight of

    political Islam as the strongest opposition force in Egypt and

    caught the government and NDP off guard. 

    Curbs on Islamists

    T

    he authorities have curbed leeway given to the Islamists in

    the early stages of voting. Police restricted voting and

    detained 860 of the Brotherhood's activists on Saturday - the

    fourth of six days of legislative elections. 

    Brotherhood deputy leader
    Muhammad Habib

    Riot police cordoned off polling stations in Brotherhood

    strongholds, either preventing anybody from voting or allowing

    only a trickle of people to cast ballots.

    Muhammad Habib, the deputy leader of the Brotherhood, said: "The aim was to prevent voters from reaching the ballot

    boxes and to affect the result

    "But with perseverance the people

    and the Brotherhood were able to overcome the barriers." 

    The Brotherhood said its candidate in the oasis town of

    Fayoum south of Cairo had defeated Yusuf Wali, a high-ranking NDP official and

    former deputy prime minister.

    A Brotherhood candidate also defeated Khalid Muhieldin, head

    of the opposition Tagammu Party and one of the last surviving

    leaders of the 1952 coup that overthrew the monarchy, the

    Brotherhood said.

    Secular opposition parties have won only a handful of seats

    so far. Two candidates from the liberal Wafd Party won seats on

    Saturday.

    Brawls

    Monitors said NDP supporters and the Brotherhood had brawled

    in places. Armed thugs attacked Brotherhood supporters with

    machetes in at least one town, witnesses and the victims said. 

    "The aim was to prevent voters from reaching the ballot

    boxes and to affect the result.

    But with perseverance the people

    and the Brotherhood were able to overcome the barriers" 

    Muhammad Habib,
    Brotherhood deputy leader

    Police also tried to stop journalists reporting freely.

    Reporters working for the French agency AFP, Reuters, the

    BBC and the US-based Associated

    Press all said they had been harassed or had equipment or papers

    seized.

    The Brotherhood, which advocates political freedoms and

    wants to bring legislation closer to Islamic law, is fielding

    candidates for 49 of the 136 seats at stake in the final round

    of the elections beginning on 1 December.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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