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Egypt election routs popular Muslim Brotherhood from parliament

A tightly controlled Egypt election appears to have given President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party its biggest share of the legislature in 15 years.

By Correspondent / December 1, 2010

Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary candidate Mohamed El Biltagy shows what he called a forged ballot during a press conference at the group's parliamentary office in Cairo, Egypt, on Nov. 30. Egypt's opposition called the results of parliamentary elections invalid on Tuesday claiming vote rigging appears to have secured an overwhelming victory for the ruling party.

Nasser Nasser/AP

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Cairo

Egypt’s largest opposition movement was nearly swept from parliament after elections that appear likely to have delivered President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) its biggest share of the legislature since 1995.

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The Egypt parliamentary election on Sunday was racked by allegations of vote rigging and opposition intimidation. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the US – Egypt's largest source of military aid – was "dismayed by reports of election-day interference and intimidation by security forces."

Though full results are not yet in, with runoff elections scheduled for Dec. 5, the dismal showing for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's weaker secular opposition parties in the first round points to a parliament with the lowest opposition representation in more than a decade.

That the regime would remove even the appearance of a democratic system by virtually eliminating the opposition from parliament signals that it is intent on securing all levers of power ahead of a possible presidential succession in the next parliament’s term. Speculation is rampant that the 82-year-old President Mubarak may seek to install his son as his successor, possibly in September 2011 presidential elections.

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The biggest loser in Sunday's parliamentary election, widely seen as a dress rehearsal for next year's presidential poll, was the Brotherhood.

In 2005 elections, the movement had stirred hopes among some that Egypt's political process was opening up – and fears in the Washington and Cairo establishments – when it tripled its representation in parliament to 20 percent. Brotherhood candidates, who held 88 seats in the outgoing Parliament, failed to win any seats outright, and only 26 of their candidates advanced to the runoff that will be held this weekend.

Brotherhood threatens to boycott second round

In Sunday's election, the first round of voting, 221 of 508 seats were decided. Of those, the NDP won 95 percent, with opposition parties and independents taking a handful of seats. In the runoffs this weekend, about 75 of the remaining 287 seats will be contested between NDP candidates, since the party fielded multiple candidates in many constituencies.

Preliminary results show that the NDP took almost all of the 43 percent of seats that were decided in the first round and about 75 of the runoffs will be between NDP candidates, since the party fielded multiple candidates in many constituencies. Opposition parties and independents won a handful of seats.

While the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to lose seats, and probably lost some legitimate support over its failure to make an impact on legislation in the past five years, the extent of its loss caught many in Egypt by surprise. Some of the group's members are openly questioning their decision to engage in the political process and are calling for a boycott.

Brotherhood leaders said Tuesday they may decide to withdraw from the runoff altogether because they believe it too will be rigged.

"The result of participation is finished – there will be no seats,” says Mohamed El Biltagy, a Brotherhood parliamentarian from the Shubra Al Kheima district, who is in a runoff. “There is no value in this day if there are no judges, no monitoring. The same fraud will be perpetrated.”

That argument echoes the one made before the vote by Brotherhood members who urged boycotting the elections altogether. Mr. Biltagy, along with Brotherhood leader Essam El Erian, maintains that contesting elections is a good strategy, but indicated the group could be effective without participating, too. “Elections are only one tool we can use,” said Dr. Erian. “We cannot stop our activities.”

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