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Egyptians Vote in Runoff Elections


Egyptians are returning to the polls for runoff elections to decide who wins 133 seats in parliament. The first round of voting last week proved inconclusive in most constituencies.

With cymbals and tambourines, supporters of two rival candidates try to out-sing each other outside a polling station in the downtown Cairo neighborhood of Maspiru.

The runoff contest in this district pits a member of parliament from the ruling National Democratic Party, or NDP, against a former member of the same party who quit to run as an independent. The two of them finished on top of a longer list of candidates who ran in the first round last week, but neither earned more than 50 percent of the vote.

The ruling party candidate, Hossam Badrawi, says the competition was stiff this year, and he was not surprised to be forced to defend his seat in a second round.

"It's expected that no one would get the 50 percent from the first round," said Mr. Badrawi. "I was expecting something like that. I was not happy, but it's expected."

Indeed, the vast majority of districts in which there was voting last week produced no outright winner, so runoffs have had to be held for 133 seats. Only 31 races were decided in the first round.

In 42 districts, NDP nominees face off against independent candidates backed by the influential but outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which has been able to campaign more openly than ever. Its members are running under the slogan "Islam is the solution." They have made a strong showing so far, winning four of the 31 seats awarded last week after the first round, with all but one of the rest going to the NDP.

Opposition parties and local civic groups have complained of irregularities in the first round of voting, and it seems likely that they will be no happier after the runoff.

There were several reports of violence and some allegations of intimidation. In Old Cairo, the Reuters news agency reported that a woman was shot and wounded outside a polling station.

The Muslim Brotherhood says 29 of its members were arrested Tuesday in the city of Assiut. It is not clear why.

In Cairo's Manial neighborhood, on an island in the middle of the Nile River, many voters complained of aggressive vote-buying.

Outside a polling station in Manial, VOA witnessed what appeared to be a clear incident of vote-buying, including the money changing hands. One of the young men involved even offered to buy the vote of a VOA journalist, but he was quickly silenced by one of his colleagues.

The election moves next week to other parts of the country, including Alexandria. Voting should be finished nationwide by December 7, and the new parliament is scheduled to convene for the first time a week later.

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