- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

CAIRO — The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood captured 29 more seats in weekend parliamentary runoff elections, the group and Interior Ministry officials said yesterday, meaning the organization will control at least five times more seats in the new legislature than it does now.

The stunning result after the second round of voting was achieved despite low turnout, irregularities and clashes with police in what appeared to be a determined government effort to block opposition voters and curb the building momentum of the Islamic-based organization.

The Higher Election Committee said final results showed 115 candidates won seats in Saturday’s runoffs from round two of the polling — 75 for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), 38 to independents, and two for the New Wafd opposition party.

Judges stopped the elections in three constituencies for irregularities.

Senior Brotherhood official Ali Abdel Fattah said yesterday that 29 of the winning independents were members of the group, which gets around an official ban by fielding its candidates as independents. That number was confirmed by Interior Ministry officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The results announced so far showed the Brotherhood increasing its share in parliament to 76 seats, more than five times its representation in the outgoing parliament. A third and final stage of voting will occur Thursday, with a runoff likely six days after that.

The outcome could push the Brotherhood past the number of seats needed under new constitutional rules to nominate a presidential candidate in 2011.

After Saturday’s vote, the ruling NDP had 197 seats and other candidates had 28.

Nongovernmental organizations and judges monitoring Saturday’s polls complained that security forces blocked thousands of the 10 million eligible voters from entering polling stations in nine provinces. In those regions, 122 seats were in play after no candidate garnered more than half the vote in the second round of polling six days ago.

The Interior Ministry denied Saturday that any polling centers were closed and that police were preventing voters from casting ballots.

Outside some polling stations, armed backers of both Islamist and secular politicians engaged in fierce clashes. Mr. Fattah said police arrested 680 Brotherhood members and supporters nationwide on Saturday.

The Brotherhood’s platform is based on a vague call for the implementation of Islamic law in the Arab world’s most populous nation. It advocates the veil for women and campaigns against perceived immorality in the media, but the group insists it represents a more moderate face of Islam than that followed in Saudi Arabia.

The Muslim Brotherhood was banned in 1954 and later that year was accused of trying to assassinate then-Interior Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser, who became president in 1956. The group renounced violence in the 1970s.

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