Egypt’s two leading opposition parties, the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd, have withdrawn from the second round of legislative elections on allegations of widespread electoral fraud at the hands of the government.
AP - Egypt’s top two opposition movements on Wednesday pulled out of parliamentary elections, citing widespread fraud, after they were all but shut out in a first round of voting.
The move by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood - the strongest opposition force in the country - and the smaller, secular liberal Wafd party is a blow to this top U.S. ally’s efforts to portray itself as a democracy. Egypt’s government has staunchly defended the fairness of last Sunday’s election, despite reports of rampant rigging in favor of the ruling party.
A top Brotherhood official said the movement had decided to pull out of a second round of voting scheduled for the coming Sunday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement, expected later Wednesday, had not yet been made.
The Brotherhood held 88 seats in the outgoing parliament - a fifth of its seats. But results announced late Tuesday showed not a single candidate from its ranks won a seat in the first round. Twenty-six Brotherhood candidates made it into the run-off.
The movement, which is banned but runs candidates as independents, came under a heavy crackdown ahead of the vote, with some 1,400 of its activists arrested during the campaign. Critics said the ruling National Democratic Party appeared determined to purge the Brotherhood from the legislature - particularly at a time when presidential elections are due next year and there are questions over the future of the country’s leadership, after 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak underwent surgery earlier this year.
The Wafd party announced it was withdrawing from the run-off because of “fraud and thuggery” during the first round, its spokesman Moataz Salah Eddin told The Associated Press. “This is a message to those rigging elections,” he said.
The Wafd had a handful of seats in the outgoing party. In the first round, two of its candidates won seats. Salah Eddin said they would take the seats as independents.
The Wafd is the oldest and most effective of Egypt’s numerous secular opposition parties - but that’s not saying much: Hardly any of the parties, most of which rely on government financing, have any grassroots organization or support. The Wafd still has pockets of support around the country, but it too has withered. Only the Brotherhood is seen as well organized around the nation, and enjoys popularity because of the many social services it provides.
Official results of the Nov. 28 vote announced late Tuesday gave the ruling NDP 209 of 508 seats. Opposition parties other than the Brotherhood won five and independent candidates took seven in the vote, which decided 43 percent of seats. The rest are up for grabs in runoffs on Sunday.
“It is logical that the regime wanted to wipe us out,” said Sobhi Saleh, a Brotherhood candidate who ran for one of the 22 seats in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria but lost.
The U.S. has said it was dismayed by reports of election-day interference and intimidation by security forces - irregularities that call into question the fairness and transparency of the vote in this key American ally in the Middle East.
Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood, which held a fifth of seats in the outgoing parliament, has pulled out of an election race after winning no seats in the first round, al-Arabiya television reported.
The group, which runs candidates as independents to skirt a ban on religious parties, said the vote was rigged in favour of President Hosni Mubarak's ruling party.
Al-Arabiya said the group was pulling out of a run-off to be held on Dec. 5. The group had said 26 of its candidates had made it through to the run-off. A senior Brotherhood official told Reuters an announcment would be made later on Wednesday.