Egypt ruling party holds poll lead

Egypt's ruling party has taken an early lead in the first stage of legislative elections this past week, but a second round of voting will be needed to decide most seats, the justice minister says.

    The National Democratic Party has won 26 of the 164 seats

    Mahmoud Aboul Leil said on Friday that the National Democratic Party (NDP) had won 26 of 164 seats contested on Wednesday. Independent candidates won five seats, he said, reading final results of the poll to reporters.


    Four of those elected as independents were candidates fielded by the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group said on Friday, underlining its status as the strongest opposition to the NDP.


    Turnout was 24.9%, Aboul Leil said. NDP winners included Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali and Parliament Speaker Fathi Sorour.


    Nour loses seat


    Ayman Nour, head of the opposition al-Ghad party, lost his Cairo seat to the NDP.


    Nour came a distant second to President Hosni Mubarak, head of the NDP, in Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election in September.


    Ayman Nour lost his Cairo seat to
    the ruling party 

    Aboul Leil said a run-off vote pitting the top two candidates in each of the 133 undecided seats against each other would be held on Tuesday.


    The Brotherhood says 42 of its candidates will go into the second round.


    The authorities have given the Brotherhood, banned since 1954, unusual leeway ahead of the elections by allowing it to hold rallies and marches and releasing instead of arresting its activists.


    But the Islamist group, along with independent election monitors, complained of irregularities in the voting, including intimidation of voters by NDP supporters.


    Opposition groups also complained about mistakes in voter lists.


    Brotherhood protest


    Police on Friday arrested seven men taking part in a Brotherhood protest against what the demonstrators called the rigging of the elections, a police source said. The arrested men had hit police officers, the source said.


    The Brotherhood won 17 seats in parliament in 2000, more than any other opposition group, despite the arrest of its activists and police blocking its supporters from voting.


    The elections for parliament's 444 elected seats will finish in December.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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