- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

BOLQINA, Egypt — Police blocked voters from casting ballots yesterday in districts where parliamentary candidates from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood were expected to win, witnesses said.

The police offensive, accompanied by clashes between supporters of Islamist and secular parties, occurred amid efforts by the Brotherhood movement to bolster its already impressive tally of 47 out of 186 seats decided so far.

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has claimed 122 seats and is expected to maintain control of the 454-member legislature at the end of Egypt’s three-stage elections.

But the strong showing by the Brotherhood — already tripling its previous number of seats — has been followed by violence, unrest and detentions.

Yesterday’s runoff was to decide another 122 seats in nine provinces where no candidate got more than half the vote in the second round Nov. 20. Polls closed at 7 p.m.



Senior Brotherhood member Ali Abdel Fattah said police arrested 680 movement members and supporters yesterday. Earlier, a police official said 140 Brotherhood members were arrested.

At least five persons were wounded in yesterday’s violence, led by armed thugs roaming streets on foot or in vehicles. There were also reports of police intimidation of voters. Security forces confiscated the identity papers of an Associated Press reporter covering the polls in the Nile Delta, north of Cairo.

Supporters of the Brotherhood, which has been officially banned since 1954, accuse the NDP of enlisting thugs to threaten voters, while the NDP and other political groups accuse the Brotherhood of instigating the violence.

The Brotherhood’s platform is based on a vague call for the implementation of Islamic law in the Arab world’s largest nation. It advocates head scarves 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.

Election monitors complained that security forces blocked some of the 10 million eligible voters from casting ballots. Judicial official Hesham el-Bastawy said judges were considering canceling the vote in some areas as a result of police cordons at polls.

“When some of the judges protested and demanded that the centers be open to the voters, they were insulted and humiliated by the police,” Mr. el-Bastawy told Al Jazeera TV. “This is a grave development.”

The Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession said one of its monitors was arrested and police let only NDP supporters vote in the eastern city of Suez.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ibrahim Hammad denied that polls were closed or that police were blocking voters. He said elections were “unfolding in an orderly manner.”

The ministry also said at least 78 persons were arrested for pelting police with stones, smashing a police car window and “terrorizing voters” in various centers including Alexandria, Port Said and Fayoum, west of Cairo. Police responded with tear gas in some cases, according to a ministry statement.

There were reports of anti-Brotherhood violence in three villages about 75 miles north of Cairo.

In Bolqina, voters claimed NDP-allied thugs attacked them. Brotherhood supporter Mokhtar Mohammed said men fired guns into the air and beat voters, including veiled women, with sticks before smashing several computers at a polling station.

In Hayatem village, voters said about 30 thugs wielding swords, wooden sticks and guns attacked a Brotherhood polling center. In Attab, voter Essam Mohammed said three security trucks descended on the village, followed by a truck packed with thugs who attacked him and other voters with knives.

In the coastal city of Alexandria, the Brotherhood claimed candidates and supporters were harassed and attacked and some of its representatives barred from entering polls.

Because the Brotherhood is outlawed, its candidates are required to register and run as independents.

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