- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

CAIRO — The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s leading Islamist group, more than doubled its legislative representation in runoff parliamentary elections, according to initial results announced yesterday.

The fundamentalist group won 34 seats and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) won about 70 seats after a runoff vote Tuesday. The results were reported by the semiofficial Middle East News Agency (MENA), quoting judges in counting stations.

The result was “a shock,” said Abdel Gelil el-Sharnoubi, editor of the Brotherhood’s Web site. “I’m now praying to God to protect us from future government wrath.”

As a banned organization, the Brotherhood is not allowed to run as a political party, but it fields candidates who stand as independents. It had 15 members in the outgoing parliament.

The NDP’s tally was likely to rise because many of the 50 independents who won Tuesday are former party members who stood alone after failing to win the party’s nomination. Such independents usually rejoin the party at the end of the elections.

Other opposition parties and groups scored eight seats, MENA reported.

The ruling party was not expected to lose its long-held majority in the 454-seat parliament. The elections are seen as a gauge of how far President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s leader for 24 years, is prepared to go toward opening up the political system. During the past two years, the United States has increased pressure on the president to liberalize his authoritarian administration.

The runoffs, which were marred by scattered violence and accusations of fraud, were called to decide the 133 seats in races in which no candidate won more than half the vote in the first round on Nov. 9.

In the seats decided Nov. 9, the NDP won 26, the Brotherhood four and an independent one. Tuesday’s voting added 50 more for the NDP and 30 more for the Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood is fielding about 100 candidates in the second and third rounds of the elections scheduled for Sunday and Dec. 1.

The Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928 and banned since 1954, calls for implementing Islamic law but has been vague about what this means. Its members are conservative — advocating the veil for women and campaigning against perceived immorality in the media, for example — but the group insists it represents a more moderate face of Islam than the puritanical Wahhabi version that dominates Saudi Arabia. In the past year, they have presented themselves as advocates of democratic reform and have tried to reach out to Christians, though most in Egypt’s Christian minority oppose them.

The government generally tolerates the group, which renounced violence in the 1970s, but hundreds of members have been detained in recent months amid increased protests against Mr. Mubarak.

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