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

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
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.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs