Egypt’s Electoral Unrest

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Amidst accusations that their government was engaging in rampant acts of voter intimidation and electoral fraud — allegations that sparked violent encounters between police and protesters nationwide — Egyptians went to the polls on November 28 to vote in the nation’s first round of parliamentary elections. While it took several days to certify the results, the country’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) is headed for an overwhelming victory, claiming the majority of seats in the Egyptian People’s Assembly.

The NDP won 209 of the 508 seats being contested, with a December 5 run-off scheduled for seats where no one received more than 50 percent of the vote. The NDP will run candidates in 275 of the 283 scheduled run-off votes, mostly against other NDP candidates.

Despite charges of widespread electoral malfeasance, the Egyptian government has claimed the election was a “success.” While acknowledging some electoral irregularities may have occurred, the government described them as minor in both nature and in consequence. According to Egyptian Minister of Information Anas El-Fekky, “The Government is confident that they have not affected the overall conduct and integrity of the elections.”

This may have come as news to the vast number of election monitors and opposition groups, who reported an election rife with countless acts of vote-rigging, violence, and harassment of opposition candidates. This feeling was best summed up by Magdy Abdel-Hamid, a spokesperson for an Egyptian local rights group, who declared, “There was no election. There was chaos, there were acts of thuggery and there was violence.”

Unfortunately, the entire parliamentarian campaign itself was plagued with charges of electoral corruption, violent street clashes, and mass arrests, so it wasn’t too surprising to see election day culminate in chaotic upheaval.

While Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party is no stranger to charges of electoral abuse, its actions throughout this political campaign, however, have served to exacerbate an already tense and uncertain political climate.

Feeding this uncertainty has been the news that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, is preparing to run for a sixth term in next year’s presidential election, despite concerns over both his health and doubts about who will be his chosen successor.

Additionally, there is growing angst among Egypt’s secular liberals that the electoral misdeeds of Mubarak’s NDP are stifling any chance at democratic reforms, leaving the nation vulnerable to internal religious forces. One very formidable force has been the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a radical Islamist organization that has long sought the imposition of Sharia law onto all aspects of Egyptian politics and society.

Despite being officially outlawed since 1954, the MB has been able to circumvent the government ban by running its members as independent candidates and, as a result, has enjoyed some recent political success, winning 88 seats in the 2005 parliamentary election.

However, the 2010 election results showed that the MB lost the vast majority of those same seats, leaving only 26 of its candidates slated to compete in the December 5 run-off election.

Of course, none of the election results comes as much of a surprise to the MB, which, as the main opposition group to the NDP, has been the chief target of recent government efforts to rid the Islamist group of its power prior to next year’s presidential election.

A glaring example of such efforts occurred just before the election, when Saad el-Katani, a senior leader of the MB, was set upon by an armed mob of NDP supporters after he accused the Egyptian government of “rigging the vote” in advance of the parliamentary election.

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  • USMCSniper

    Fauzi Najjac: The intellectual crisis agitating muslim minds today centers on the relationship between modern Muslims and their past. For the last two centuries, Muslims have found themselves caught up between authenticity (attachment to their values and culture) and modernity. They view most Western ideas, ideologies and institutions as a threat to Islamic law, values and culture. Among these foreign imports, secularism seems to represent the greatest danger. As separation of religion and state, secularism was first championed by Christian immigrants who were Syrians, who had found refuge from Ottoman rule in British-occupied Egypt. The recent Islamic resurgence with its call for "return to Islam" or "Islam is the solution," has rekindled the debate between secularists and Islamists, giving it an urgency and intensity previously unknown. Capitalizing on the failure of the various political and economic systems to solve society's problems, Islamists have, one may say, encapsulated the Muslim world's problems into a struggle between religious and secular forces.

  • Moheb Zaki

    The Muslim Brothers won 20% of the Parliamentary seats in the 2005 elections, but their influence on the regime's policies was absolutely nil—just as was the case of the opposition in all previous parliaments since the incumbent regime always ensured that it enjoyed at least 75% of the parliamentary seats. Despite this chronic marginalization of the opposion the regime this time was unwilling to countenance any significant presence of the opposition—be it Islamic or secular—since the new parliament will play a crucial role in the the upcoming presidential elections to be held next year—in which president Mubarak is expected to seek another term despite his age and frail health. It will even play a more decisive role in case Mr Mubarak does not complete his full term