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December 06, 2011

Egypt's Islamists Claim Victory in Election Runoffs

Egypt's largest Islamist party claimed victory Wednesday after electoral officials said it won a majority of runoff contests in the first round of parliamentary elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party said 24 of 44 winners announced by the election officials were its candidates, while another four were from its allies.  

The Brotherhood's party had already won the largest share of seats reserved for parties in last week's vote, securing 37 percent of ballots in Cairo, Alexandria and seven other provinces, compared to 24 percent for its nearest rival, the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour party.  Egypt's liberal coalition was a distant third.

Two more rounds of voting for seats in the 498-member lower house of parliament will be held in the coming weeks in the remaining 18 provinces.  Elections for parliament's less-powerful upper house will begin in late January and finish in March.

The election results were announced hours after interim Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri unveiled his new Cabinet.  A former regional security head, Mohammed Ibrahim, became new interior minister, replacing Mansour al-Eissawy.  Opposition youth activists have been calling for Eissawy's ouster.

The finance ministry will be headed by Mumtaz al-Saeed, who faces the challenge of stabilizing an economy battered by the unrest.  Some incumbent ministers will remain in the Cabinet.

Many Egyptians resent the Interior Ministry for ordering police to violently crack down on opposition protesters, who forced autocratic president Hosni Mubarak to step down in February and who demonstrated last month against the military council that replaced him.

Mr. Mubarak, two of his sons and his former interior minister are all standing trial on charges including killing protesters and abuse of power. The news agency MENA reported Wednesday that an Egyptian court has rejected an appeal to remove the main judge in the Mubarak trial.  Lawyers representing the families of slain protesters have called for the judge to be replaced.

Also Wednesday, Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces gave some presidential powers to Prime Minister Ganzouri, but said it would maintain control of the army and judiciary.

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

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