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Islamists show strength in Egypt elections (REUTERS) By Tom Perry CAIRO, EGYPT Additional reporting by Amil Khan 11/16/05 9:27 AM ET)Source: http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2005-11-16T142712Z_01_SCH650236_RTRUKOC_0_US-EGYPT-ELECTIONS.xml Reuters News Service Reuters News Service Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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

NDP.

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 2005 11/16/05)


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