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Egypt Parliament Vote Set for Nov. 28

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (file)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (file)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has set November 28 as the date for parliamentary elections, even as authorities continued a crackdown on government critics and the media in the run-up to the vote.

There are 508 seats at stake in Egypt's People's Assembly, the parliament's lower house, with an additional 10 seats appointed by the president. The parliament is controlled by the president's ruling National Democratic Party.

Egypt's largest opposition group, the banned Muslim Brotherhood, shocked the ruling establishment in 2005 by winning a fifth of parliament's seats in the last election, its best showing ever. The Brotherhood gets around the ban by running its candidates as independents.

Dozens of the Islamist group's members, many of them election campaign workers, have been detained in police raids this month.

Late Tuesday, the government suspended 12 satellite television stations and issued warnings to 20 others for alleged "breaches of contract" related to inciting religious intolerance, promoting unlicensed medical advice and broadcasting pornography.

The move came after the Egyptian state-owned broadcaster Nilesat, which carries more than 400 channels, dropped four stations with heavy religious programming. Critics say the suspensions are likely meant to stop the spread of strict Islamic (Salafi) teaching that might boost support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The group has announced it will field candidates for 30 percent of the seats to be contested in next month's poll.

Mr. Mubarak's ruling party is expected to dominate the elections, which, for the first time, will include 64 women-only seats. The changes are meant to ensure the 12 percent quota of women in parliament is satisfied.

Mohammed ElBaradei, the former U.N. nuclear chief and a leading Egyptian democracy advocate, has called for a boycott of the polls, saying they would be rigged. The former Nobel Peace Prize winner has said he will not consider running in the 2011 presidential election unless constitutional changes take place first.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.