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Fraud Charges Mar Egypt Vote

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/middleeast/29egypt.html
November 28, 2010
Fraud Charges Mar Egypt Vote
By ROBERT F. WORTH and MONA EL-NAGGAR [Egypt] [broader middle east] [northern Africa or Islamic Maghreb; and Horn of Africa] [democratization] [jihadism, Islamism, and authoritatianism in Egypt and the Middle East] [use psci 355-455, 469] [parliamentary elections and, shocker, fraud?] [*]
CAIRO — Egyptians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in a parliamentary election that seemed to unroll according to a wearily familiar script: scattered violence, widespread accusations of fraud and intimidation, and a sense among many here that Egypt’s long-dominant governing party was bent on entrenching its hold on power in a period of looming political uncertainty. [*]
The election was being watched closely as a prelude to next year’s far more significant presidential vote, which may usher in a long-awaited political transition. President Hosni Mubarak has governed Egypt since 1981, but he is 82 years old and concerns about his health have grown since he underwent gall bladder surgery earlier this year.
Mr. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party began cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamist group that represents Egypt’s only substantial opposition, early this year. At least 1,200 supporters have been arrested, and in the weeks leading up to the vote, rallies were broken up and some candidates barred from running in

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/middleeast/29egypt.html
November 28, 2010
Fraud Charges Mar Egypt Vote
By ROBERT F. WORTH and MONA EL-NAGGAR [Egypt] [broader middle east] [northern Africa or Islamic Maghreb; and Horn of Africa] [democratization] [jihadism, Islamism, and authoritatianism in Egypt and the Middle East] [use psci 355-455, 469] [parliamentary elections and, shocker, fraud?] [*]
CAIRO — Egyptians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in a parliamentary election that seemed to unroll according to a wearily familiar script: scattered violence, widespread accusations of fraud and intimidation, and a sense among many here that Egypt’s long-dominant governing party was bent on entrenching its hold on power in a period of looming political uncertainty. [*]
The election was being watched closely as a prelude to next year’s far more significant presidential vote, which may usher in a long-awaited political transition. President Hosni Mubarak has governed Egypt since 1981, but he is 82 years old and concerns about his health have grown since he underwent gall bladder surgery earlier this year.
Mr. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party began cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamist group that represents Egypt’s only substantial opposition, early this year. At least 1,200 supporters have been arrested, and in the weeks leading up to the vote, rallies were broken up and some candidates barred from running in the elections.
“They’re not letting our people in to vote,” Mohsen Rady, a Brotherhood lawmaker in a dark pinstripe suit, said Sunday as he stood fuming outside a dusty polling station in the Nile Delta city of Banha, an hour outside the capital. “They only get in when I’m here, and the second I leave they start shutting people out again.” [*]
The Brotherhood’s candidates, who run as independents, won a record 88 seats in the last parliamentary election in 2005 — about 20 percent of the seats in the 454-member body. This time, the governing party seemed determined to cut that number down, analysts say, limiting avenues of dissent at a sensitive time when unrest has been growing over high food prices and unemployment.
At polling stations across Egypt, the same scene replayed itself again and again under a hazy autumn sky: opposition party representatives stood outside complaining that they were being denied access, and many voters lurked nearby saying they were barred from voting or bullied by the police or hired thugs. Supporters of the governing party, meanwhile, chanted cheerfully in support of their candidates, whose colorful posters were often plastered thickly on the walls around polling places.
“They let the N.D.P. voters in even without an ID,” said Sumaya Abdelaziz, a 20-year-old student, her face flush with indignation, referring to the governing party by its initials. “The rest of us aren’t getting in.”
One Brotherhood candidate, Sobhi Saleh, said he had been attacked Sunday morning by a gang of the governing party’s young supporters as he arrived at the polls in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. He showed a reporter his torn shirt and dried blood on his neck after being released from a hospital. [*]
The Brotherhood’s Web sites were taken down at 8 a.m. on Sunday and remained down all day. “This is an enormous farce,” said Ahmed Abu Baraka, a spokesman for the Brotherhood. “The previous election at least had the appearance of an election. This election doesn’t even look like an election.”
There were varying reports about violence. Interior Ministry officials said no one had died in election-related clashes, but Aida Seif el-Dawla, a human rights advocate with the Nadeem Center, said nine people had been killed countrywide.
Sameh al-Kashef, a spokesman for the government-appointed committee supervising the elections, said in a news conference late Sunday that scattered violations during the elections “did not affect the general functioning of the voting process, as the committee worked on intervening to resolve all problems quickly and decisively.”
At one polling station in a school in Banha, a group of young armed men drove up in a minibus, entered the school and began firing shots in the air, witnesses said. They then left and drove away. The police shut down the station for hours, leaving angry voters standing outside, complaining that the whole episode was intended to keep people away from the polls.
Turnout has almost always been low in Egyptian elections, usually about 25 percent; it was unclear how many people turned out Sunday.
At another polling station in the Cairo district of Shobra el-Kheima, a thick, angry crowd formed after the police shut the station’s gates early after a fight broke out at about 5 p.m. Young men began banging loudly on the iron gates and climbing them, chanting antigovernment slogans. Cars drove slowly past, honking and adding to an atmosphere that was part carnival, part riot. An opposition candidate emerged and was hoisted onto the shoulders of the young men, where he shouted about the unfairness of the vote.
“They’re rigging the vote, and they don’t want anyone to get inside and see,” a woman in the crowd, Sadeya Mohammed, yelled over the din. “They wouldn’t let me in. Don’t I have a right to vote?”
Many Egyptians who complain about corruption still support Mr. Mubarak, fearing the unknown after 30 years of stability. The economy has been growing, though the wealth has largely not trickled down to the lower classes. “It’s in the interest of any constituency to have an N.D.P. candidate,” [*]Mohammed Fuad, 35, a hardware store owner, said as he sipped a glass of tea in his shop in Sayyida Zeinab, a working-class Cairo district. “The other parties don’t have any power, so they can’t help you.”
Many other Egyptians ignored the polls completely. “I stopped voting,” said Muhammed Mursi, 53, standing at the door of his furniture store in Sayyida Zeinab. “Now I just laugh.”
There was at least one new element in Sunday’s elections: 64 seats were added to the chamber and set aside for women, bringing the total number of lawmakers to 518.
But over all, the elections were no surprise.
“We are moving in place,” said Amr El-Shobaki, a political analyst at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “We are still in square one since the beginning of multiparty political life in Egypt in 1976. If you’re standing still for more than 30 years, it means you’re moving backwards.”
David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Alexandria, Egypt.

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