President Hosni Mubarak's party tightens its grip on Egypt
President Hosni Mubarak won 74 of 88 seats in elections for the Shura Council, Egypt's upper house of parliament, amid accusations of fraud and state intimidation. The vote sets the scene for more important upcoming elections.
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In the first of three elections to be held over the next 16 months, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) rolled to victory in elections for the Shura Council, Egypt's upper house of parliament. The election put up for grabs 88 seats in the 264-seat chamber, which is less powerful than the lower house of parliament. The NDP walked away with 74 of them.
Voter turnout was low and there were accusations of fraud and state intimidation at the polls, a familiar pattern in Egyptian elections.
Although the Shura Council is seen by many here as a rubber stamp for President Mubarak, who appoints one-third of its members, Tuesday's elections were a test of how much control the regime will exert leading up to fall elections for the lower house of parliament and presidential elections in September 2011. The outcome also makes it highly unlikely that an independent candidate, such as Nobel Prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei, could run for president.
Under constitutional amendments passed in 2007, an independent candidate seeking to run for president needs to collect a combination of 230 signatures of endorsement from members of local councils and both houses of parliament.
“So if the government is controlling ... the Shura Council, then there is no chance for [an independent] to run,” says Emad Gad, a political analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, a government funded think-tank in Cairo.
Electoral commission criticized by rights activists
In 2007, Egypt removed direct judicial oversight from its elections and instead left the government-appointed Higher Electoral Commission in charge of overseeing the polls. The removal of the judiciary, which is seen as generally independent in Egypt, was roundly criticized at the time.
The 2007 Shura Council election, which was held without judicial oversight, was marked by state-sponsored violence at the polls, the beating of an opposition parliamentarian by policemen, and the arrest of 800 activists from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most popular opposition group. Egyptian political analysts at the time said the level of fraud in the 2007 Shura election was evidence that the electoral commission served the interests of the NDP, not the Egyptian people.
Those kinds of charges are still being leveled.