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Egyptian Court Orders Halt to Parliamentary Vote in Alexandria

Alexandria, long a cosmopolitan vacation spot for wealthy Egyptians, is also a stronghold for the Muslim Brotherhood, 22 Nov 2010
Alexandria, long a cosmopolitan vacation spot for wealthy Egyptians, is also a stronghold for the Muslim Brotherhood, 22 Nov 2010

An Egyptian court has ordered parliamentary elections halted in most of Egypt's second-largest city after its directives to reinstate disqualified candidates, many from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, were ignored.

A judge from Alexandria's administrative court ruled Wednesday that Egypt's November 28 elections could not proceed in 10 of the Mediterranean coastal city's 11 districts.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party has appealed the decision and it is not clear if the government will implement it ahead of Sunday's poll.

Egypt's elections have been preceded by a sweeping campaign to silence critics, particularly from the Muslim Brotherhood, its top rival. Authorities have also reined in the media, shutting several independent television stations and forcing critics off the air on other channels.

In a report released Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said the Egyptian government has rejected calls to let international monitors observe the polls, insisting instead that domestic civil society organizations will ensure transparency.

The U.S-based rights group said this, together with a combination of restrictive laws, intimidation and arbitrary arrests, have made a free and fair vote extremely unlikely.

Human Rights Watch said that, as of Wednesday, the two main coalitions of Egyptian non-governmental organizations have yet to receive any of the more than 2,200 poll-monitoring permits they had requested.

A statement from seven Egyptian NGOs said they would monitor the election even if the government-appointed High Elections Commission refused their requests for accreditation by the November 25 deadline.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned and yet remains Egypt's largest and best organized opposition force, is contesting 30 percent of the races around the country by running its candidates as independents. But Mr. Mubarak's ruling NDP is widely expected to dominate this month's polling.

The Brotherhood, which controls one-fifth of the lower house of parliament, said earlier this week that NDP supporters attempted to kill one of its senior lawmakers hours after he had accused the government of rigging the election.

The group said in recent weeks more than 1,200 of its members and sympathizers have been arrested in an attempt to prevent them from campaigning before the vote.

Also Wednesday, Egyptian officials said at least one person was killed and dozens injured in violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators over construction of a new Christian church. The rioting erupted in the Cairo suburb of Giza, near Egypt's pyramids, after authorities stopped construction of the church.

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