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Egyptian Opposition Leader Loses Parliament Seat


The first results are in from Egypt's parliamentary election. Ayman Nour, the politician who mounted the strongest challenge to President Hosni Mubarak in this year's presidential poll, has lost his seat to a member of Mr. Mubarak's party. His supporters are crying foul.

Presidential runner-up and opposition leader Ayman Nour has lost his seat in parliament to a member of the ruling National Democratic Party.

Voting day was tense in the crowded neighborhood of Bab As-Shariya, which Mr. Nour has represented in parliament for the past decade. Fights broke out repeatedly between supporters of the National Democratic Party and Mr. Nour's Al-Ghad, the Tomorrow Party.

Mr. Nour's supporters have a long list of complaints about the way the election was run in Bab As-Shariya. They include voter intimidation, harassment of his party members, and overt vote-buying.

Mr. Nour's wife and spokeswoman, Gameela Ismail, said she felt defeated before the ballots were counted. Just before the polls closed, she spoke to VOA outside a polling station, surrounded by hundreds of aggressive supporters of the ruling party, who several times tried to disrupt the interview.

"This is the dirtiest election I have ever witnessed in my entire life," she said. "All of these slogans and banners regarding transparency, democracy, freedom - this is all nonsense."

Mr. Nour has complained of government harassment since he declared himself a candidate for president earlier this year. He was jailed for several weeks before the presidential election, and he still faces a criminal trial on charges of electoral fraud, which he says are trumped-up to discredit him.

Mr. Nour's party has been literally torn in half by infighting since the presidential election two months ago. Rather than build on Mr. Nour's surprisingly strong showing - he finished second, albeit with only seven percent of the vote. The party has self-destructed.

A group of other Al-Ghad officials tried to oust Mr. Nour from the leadership of the party he created, accusing him of financial mismanagement. They started publishing their own version of the party newspaper, with the same name and the same design. It reportedly had front-page articles complimenting Mr. Mubarak.

Ms. Ismail says the ruling party infiltrated the Tomorrow Party.

She says she and her husband believed the harassment would end after the presidential election in September. But she says the ruling party was not content to beat her husband in the presidential election.

"No, it has to crush you into pieces. It has to crush your bones into little pieces," she noted.

Election officials announced a handful of results, in addition to Mr. Nour's loss. Most of the other districts will go to a second round because no candidate got more than half of the votes. Some constituencies had 20 to 30 candidates.

The parliamentary election is especially important to the opposition because of a controversial change in the constitution made earlier this year. Each party that wants to field a candidate in the next presidential election must win at least five percent of the seats in the legislature.

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