Crying fraud, opposition parties pull out of Egypt elections
CAIRO — Egypt’s top two opposition movements yesterday pulled out of parliamentary elections after they were all but shut out in a first round of voting, in a surprise response to widespread allegations of fraud.
The move by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood — the country’s strongest opposition force — and the smaller, secular liberal Wafd party is a blow to efforts by this top US ally to portray itself as a democracy. Egypt’s government has staunchly defended the fairness of last Sunday’s election, despite reports by independent rights groups of blatant rigging in favor of the ruling party.
The result will probably be a 518-seat Parliament made up almost entirely of the ruling National Democratic Party, with a few seats going to independents and smaller parties.
The boycott was an unprecedented step by Egypt’s opposition, which has for decades participated in elections that were consistently rigged, eager for the few seats they took each time. The move suggested deepening frustration with the domination of power by President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling power despite promises of reform.
“The ruling party is declaring itself as the only party in the country,’’ said Abdullah al-Sinawi, an analyst and editor of the opposition Al-Arabi newspaper. “There is now a widespread sentiment that there is no use in trying to get this regime to reform.’’
The government was widely seen as determined to purge the Brotherhood from the legislature — particularly ahead of presidential elections next year. There are questions over the future of the country’s leadership since President Hosni Mubarak, 82, underwent surgery earlier this year to remove his gallbladder.
The Brotherhood, which is banned but runs candidates as independents, came under a heavy crackdown ahead of the vote, with 1,400 of its activists arrested during the campaign.
The Brotherhood held 88 seats in the outgoing Parliament — a fifth of all seats. But results announced Tuesday showed not a single candidate from its ranks won a seat in the first round. Fewer than 30 Brotherhood candidates made it to the runoffs.
Those will pull out and the Brotherhood will boycott the second round, the movement announced yesterday.
“What happened has shown that the regime is a usurper of power and a forger of the will of the nation and is continuing on the path of corruption and tyranny,’’ the Brotherhood said in a statement posted on its website.
The Wafd party, which had six seats in the outgoing parliament, also announced its withdrawal because of “fraud and thuggery’’ during the first round.
“This is a message to those rigging elections,’’ said its spokesman Moataz Salah Eddin. Two Wafd candidates who won in the first round will take their seats as independents, he said.
Mubarak is believed to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him.