Islamists show strength in Egypt elections (REUTERS) By Tom Perry CAIRO, EGYPT Additional reporting by Amil Khan 11/16/05 9:27 AM ET)
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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt´s Muslim Brotherhood more than doubled its
strength in parliament in the early stages of legislative elections,
showing its weight with two thirds of places still to be contested,
the group said on Wednesday.
The voting for parliament´s 444 elected seats is not expected to end
the ruling National Democratic Party´s (NDP) control of the chamber,
but the Brotherhood wins underlined the status of political Islam as
the strongest opposition force.
Deputy Brotherhood leader Mohamed Habib told Reuters his candidates
had won 30 seats on Tuesday in run-offs. They won four seats outright
in the first day of voting last week. The Brotherhood had 15 seats in
the outgoing parliament.
"The result confirms in an unquestionable way that the Egyptian
people stand behind the Brotherhood," Habib said.
An NDP source said the ruling party won 88 of the 164 seats contested
in the last week. Its majority would be boosted if 35 winners who
broke party ranks to contest seats as independents returned to the
NDP, the source said.
Secular opposition parties won only a handful of seats, Egypt´s
official Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported. Official results
have yet to be announced.
The Brotherhood is officially outlawed but has made the most of
unusual tolerance from the authorities in the last month to campaign
openly for parliament. Its candidates have to compete as independents
to sidestep the ban on the group.
"ISLAM IS THE SOLUTION"
The Brotherhood, one of the world´s oldest Islamist groups, fielded
52 candidates in the first stage of voting and plans to contest about
110 of the 280 seats to be decided in four more days of voting
lasting into December, Habib said.
Campaigning under the slogan "Islam is the Solution," the Brotherhood
aims to bring legislation into line with Islamic laws. It also calls
for more political freedoms in Egypt, ruled by President Hosni
Mubarak since 1981.
The United States, which earlier this year called on Egypt to allow
more freedoms, supports the ban on the Brotherhood. The Islamists
oppose U.S. Middle East policy.
The Islamist group was blocked from fielding a candidate in Egypt´s
first multi-candidate presidential elections in September by tight
terms on candidacy.
Mubarak, 77, won the election easily as expected. To field an
independent candidate in presidential elections the Brotherhood would
need the approval of 65 members of parliament. It would also need to
win seats in other elected bodies.
Monitoring groups, which have had unprecedented access to this year´s
parliamentary elections, have reported widespread violations in
voting so far.
They included the illegal collective registration of state company
employees in areas where they do not live. Monitors say the voters
are rounded up and taken to polling stations to vote
Bribery and intimidation have also been reported.
But violence in this year´s elections has so far been less than in
2000, when 10 people were killed.
Supporters of an independent candidate attacked and burned a ruling
party office overnight in a poor Cairo district, witnesses and police
said on Wednesday. (Additional reporting by Amil Khan) (© Reuters
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