News / Middle East

Violence, Voting Irregularities Mar Egyptian Elections

Banners blanketed parts of Cairo, although voter interest appeared as slight as in recent years, 22 Nov 2010
Banners blanketed parts of Cairo, although voter interest appeared as slight as in recent years,  22 Nov 2010 
Elizabeth Arrott

Egyptians took part in parliamentary elections that many feel will bring little change to a country dominated by the National Democratic Party for the past three decades.   But accusations of voting irregularities and reports of violence have raised additional concerns, as the vote is widely considered a dry-run for next year's presidential election.   

Judging just by the noise level, the ruling National Democratic Party appears confident of a strong showing.

In interview after interview with voters trying to explain their support for the opposition, NDP supporters gathered around, their chanting drowning out the words of others.

But noise is just one factor.   A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Islamic organization, which can run candidates as independents, said that one of the group's candidates in Alexandria was attacked.

The Brotherhood member, known to VOA, but who preferred not to use his name, said the candidate was beaten by a group of men he described as "NDP" thugs. There has been no official word on his condition or whether his attackers have been caught. There was no immediate response from the NDP to the allegations.

Egypt Votes

  • Egypt's Population: 80+ million
  • Parliament has 508 elected members, 10 appointed by president
  • Two PMs represent each of the 254 constituencies
  • A candidate needs more than 50% of the votes to win a five-year term

Other scattered violence, some said to be by security toward opposition groups, has been reported across the country.

The opposition appears to be facing some disadvantages on a more purely technical level, for example, election monitoring.  The government promised all contestants and their representatives they could observe the voting process.  The government promised a free and fair election.

Reda Shaban is a representative of a member of the Muslim Brotherhood running as an independent candidate.  Speaking at  polling station in Helwan, just south of Cairo, Shaban said he found himself confronted by security guards, who said he needed additional approval from the local police.  He said the police turned down his request, while NDP representatives were given the proper paperwork.

Photos by VOA's Elizabeth Arrott

Likewise the media, which had been touted by the government as guarantors of a fair election - and an argument against international monitors, found their access limited. Despite proper accreditation, this reporter was barred from filming inside a polling station, and instructed to "monitor with your eyes."  

Voting at one station mid-day was light, with only nine ballots seen through the glass voting box.  Later, in another district, the count was less clear, as the glass had been covered with an opaque plastic coating.   A woman who quietly introduced herself as an independent monitor said she had seen 15 votes cast since the polls had opened, in a district where some 1,000 people are registered to vote.

Authorities say official voter turnout will be released Tuesday, one day after the winners are announced.

Tarek Zaghloul, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, believes these are only the start of the problems.  Zaghloul said the most violated persons are the voters themselves.  The voter who goes to cast his vote confronts many violations, he says, including being told the officially guaranteed national identification card was, as of voting day, no longer proof enough to vote.  He said others simply couldn't find their names on the voting rolls at all.  

Hala Mustafa, editor of the magazine Democracy, says years of these procedures have taken their toll. "Most of the people lost interest in the elections as a tool for change, for political change.  And, also, I cannot eliminate the factor of the middle class in Egypt. And, I think this class, which gave a kind of political vitality to the society, has been deteriorating for the last two or three decades, and I think this affects negatively the political participation," he said.

She says it is easier to "recruit and mobilize" people in the rural areas.  But that, she says, is beside the point. "I think the only importance of the parliamentary elections this year is for the ruling party to have the overwhelming majority in order to prepare for the presidential elections the next year.  So, this is all I think the whole elections is all about," she said.

Few doubt that the National Democratic Party will hold on to its dominant position again this year.  But next year could possibly be another story.

No candidate has officially declared candidacy for president.  Current President Hosni Mubarak, in power for nearly 30 years, has not ruled out another run, but he is 82 and has suffered health problems this year.   

His son, Gamal Mubarak, a prominent figure in the NDP, is widely seen as being groomed as an eventual replacement.  Given that Gamal is not running for parliament, the number of banners around town these days promoting his political future have only helped that speculation grow.

NEW: Follow our Middle East stories on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page. Right now, we're focusing on events and issues related to the election in Egypt. We want to know what you think about them. Let your voice be heard.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs