Egypt runoff election tightens ruling party's grip
The Egypt runoff election could leave President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party with as many as 97 percent of the seats in parliament.
The runoff election to fill the seats in Egypt’s parliament yesterday was hardly a nail biter: after a fraudulent first round of voting last week and a decision by opposition parties to withdraw from the race, the result was largely a foregone conclusion.Skip to next paragraph
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While the final tally will not be released until later this week, it appears that the ruling party will claim about 97 percent of the seats in parliament, up from about 73 percent following the 2005 election, which was itself marked by ballot stuffing and intimidation of voters in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party. That has left the largely rubber-stamp parliament without even the fig-leaf of "opposition" that Egypt's leaders have traditionally pointed to when claiming that the country is not, in fact, an autocracy.
The result has repudiated the strategy of opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood to slowly accumulate political representation through elections in the hopes that it would eventually amount to something. A signal has been sent that whoever runs for president in elections scheduled for September 2011 – President Hosni Mubarak will be 83 years old by then – that the opposition and voters will have no say in the outcome.
The next battlefield for the opposition may be the courts. Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo, says opposition groups could wage a successful battle in Egypt’s somewhat independent judiciary.
“Using the courts could be very embarrassing for the regime because opposition parties are on serious ground when they contest the legality of the election,” he says. “I think they will call for the dissolution of the People's Assembly, hoping that there would be new elections … and in these elections they would be capable of getting more seats.”
Egyptian courts already ruled to invalidate elections in a number of districts, but the High Elections Commission – controlled by the government – ignored the rulings. Dr. Sayyid says the opposition can make effective legal arguments for dissolving parliament or at least holding new elections in some districts. There is precedent for such a move: courts dissolved Egypt’s parliament in 1987 and 1990 because of election violations.
An embarrassingly large majority
Last week’s first round made clear that the regime was intent on dominating, and reducing the size of the opposition in parliament. Poll monitors and representatives for opposition candidates were routinely denied access to voting centers across the country, and those election monitors who did gain access reported ballot-box stuffing and other irregularities, while government forces used violence and intimidation to keep voters away in some cases.
The result was that the Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, won no seats outright, and the secular and free-market-oriented Wafd Party, won only two. Brotherhood candidates run as independents to avoid the government’s ban on religious parties.