- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

CAIRO — President Hosni Mubarak won Egypt’s first contested presidential race, according to a preliminary count yesterday, an expected victory in a vote that was crucial to his claims of democratic reform but was marred by accusations of irregularities.

Mr. Mubarak took 78 percent to 80 percent of the vote Wednesday, and opposition candidate Ayman Nour took 12 percent — a respectable showing for a relatively unknown candidate and one that could propel him to greater political prominence.

The election commission is expected to release the final vote count today.

Despite government promises of a clean race, reports were widespread of pressure and intimidation for voters to support Mr. Mubarak. The vote also was marred by low turnout. An election commission official said voter turnout was about 30 percent, out of the country’s 32 million registered voters.

Mr. Nour demanded a rerun, but the election commission rejected the request.

Mr. Mubarak, 77, has ruled Egypt for 24 years, and has been re-elected in referendums in which he was the only candidate.

Cairo played down reports of irregularities, saying they did not diminish a major step toward reforms.

“There may be some comments, maybe some violations happened, but we have to agree that we’re seeing an experience that we can build on for a future that realizes more freedom and more democracy in the Egyptian society,” Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi said Wednesday.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Bush administration was watching the election closely. He called the vote “a beginning.”

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