x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Muslim Brotherhood loses out in Egypt's elections

Opposition group predicts that Sunday's nationwide vote for the People's Assembly will leave only 27 Brotherhood candidates still standing.

CAIRO // The final results of Egypt's parliamentary election will drain the country's main opposition political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, of much of its legislative power.

The Brotherhood predicts that the outcome of Sunday's nationwide vote for the People's Assembly will leave only 27 Brotherhood candidates standing in the race for the country's 518-seat parliament.

The results, which were set to be announced late last night, will almost certainly confirm predictions that the autocratic ruling party, which has governed Egypt since it was formed in 1978, would use a dubious election process to cut down the Brotherhood's privileged position as the country's most powerful opposition movement.

The final tally may also vindicate calls by some senior Brotherhood in October for the organisation to boycott the poll.

Kamal el Helbawy, a former Muslim Brotherhood representative in Europe who spoke from London by telephone last night, said the Brotherhood still had the opportunity to bow out in protest before the second round.

"Of course it was my position before the elections and still it would be valid if they withdrew from the second round because the ruling party has done many grave abuses," Mr El Helbawy said. "It was not only myself, but a number of senior Brothers who said that boycotting is better and they read the situation properly. But the Muslim Brotherhood institution, they insisted on going ahead and I do believe that they should read the situation properly in all the future related events including the repetition next Sunday."

The outcome will be a stinging reproach for the Brotherhood, an officially illegal Islamist political organisation whose candidates run as independents. The group had occupied 88, or about one-fifth, of the seats in Egypt's People's Assembly since elections in 2005.

The expected 27 Brotherhood candidates will face the second and final round of voting on December 5, where each will need a majority of votes in order to win.

Political observers believe the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) used the vote, which was widely condemned as fraudulent, to prepare solid political ground for next year's presidential poll.

The 2011 elections could present a destabilising moment for Egypt's regime as it decides whether to nominate a new candidate to lead the country or stay the course with Hosni Mubarak, 82, who will have sat as Egypt's president for 30 years next year.

At least eight people were reported to have died in election-related violence throughout the country, according to Amnesty International. More than 180 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were arrested, Amnesty also reported yesterday.

In a case drawing significant media attention, a senior Egyptian judge submitted a formal report to the Commission Monday detailing an incident of fraud he discovered while inspecting a polling booth in Badrasheen, outside of Giza.

Walid el Shafey, a judge on the Cairo Court of Appeals who was appointed to the local official monitoring commission for Badrasheen, said he was briefly detained by policemen after he caught a female poll worker marking 66 ballots for the NDP. The incident took place at a polling station that was at the time inexplicably closed to outside voters by security forces, he said.

Mr el Shafey said in an interview yesterday that he was surprised by the poll worker's nonchalant admission that she was forging the vote when he confronted her.

"I was astonished, when I entered the committee, to find a young girl, almost a kid, forging the cards, and I said to her 'Daughter, what are you doing?' She said 'I am doing it on my own capacity and if you want to say I'm a fraud, yes, I'm a fraud for forging the elections."

He added: "The acceptance of forging the elections has become commonplace in our culture".

Mr el Shafey also complained that his local electoral commission was supposed to be equipped to hear complaints from the public, but was based in a small conference room in a police station with no telephones, making it almost completely inaccessible.

Much of the blame for Sunday's rampant fraud rests on a 2007 constitutional amendment in 2007 that shifted ultimate responsibility for election oversight from the judiciary to the High Elections Commission, Mr el Shafey said.

Election fraud "is not a political party conflict, it is a systemised regime," he said. The High Elections Commission "have no mechanism, no fair apparatus, to help them do their job".

cstanton@thenational.ae

mbradley@thenational.ae