- In the final round of parliamentary elections held yesterday, Egypt's most popular opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, failed to win any direct seats, according to official results. The final poll round was marred by the killing of one opposition activist, police attacks on the opposition and a crack-down on the press.
Egyptians yesterday started on the final of three poll rounds in the nation's hotly contested parliamentary elections. The first two poll rounds, held in other parts of the country, had seen unprecedented gains for "independent candidates" from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned as a political party. President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) was seen to lose ground.
While the two first poll rounds went off relatively peaceful - the Brotherhood nevertheless complained against election fraud - yesterday's third round turned violent. Most observers saw the sudden repressive use of police forces against the opposition and the press as a last attempt by the NDP to assure its total dominance of the Cairo parliament.
The violence against opposition activists, and an assumed widespread election fraud campaign, seemed to have produced results. The National Election Commission today announced the results from yesterday's poll. Only the NDP and some independent candidates had managed to win direct seats, meaning that these candidates had gathered more than 50 percent of the votes in single constituencies.
The results presented by the Commission however were far from satisfactory for the ruling party. The NDP had only gained six direct seats. Independent not aligned to the Brotherhood had won four seats and the secular Wafd Party had gained one. All other seats would have to be fought over in an upcoming run-off poll.
Here, 45 NDP candidates will stand for election. A total of 35 candidates favouring the Muslim Brotherhood will also contest the run-off. Other "democratic parties", financially supported by the US, will also contest a few seats. These parties, in particular the Wafd, were held as favourites to challenge the NDP before the polls, but have so far failed to win seats.
The Muslim Brotherhood, sometimes described as an Islamist group close to terrorist organisations, has so far turned out the strongest opposition group in Egypt. By now, it has already gained 76 parliamentary seats; five times more than in the current parliament. 35 more "independent" Brotherhood members could join the group if they win the run-offs on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, this year's legislative elections have proven that President Mubarak's US inspired limited democratisation policy is in trouble. The Egyptian leader had spearheaded a constitutional amendment, which was approved earlier this year, opening up for opposition candidates to the presidency. At the same time, multi-party elections should be held in a freer and fairer way.
This controlled reform - predominantly aimed at legitimating President Mubarak's continued grip on power - however seems to have opened up for a real popular demand for democratic change. As the election process has evolved, Egyptians have become increasingly aware of the prevailing dysfunctional system.
The NDP government felt sure it would maintain its total grip on parliament through press censorship, massive campaigning, control over opposition activists and election fraud. As the undercover operations seemed to fail in the second poll round, tougher policies were implemented in the third and last round to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from becoming too big.
"There has been yet another increase in the specific targeting of the opposition, including a greater number of arrests, planned violence, massive disenfranchisement - primarily of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Nasserists - and biases of the security forces," The Independent Committee on Election Monitoring concluded in a statement today.
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