Egypt's electoral commission announced the preliminary results of Sunday's parliamentary election, declaring the ruling National Democratic Party won 95 percent of the seats contested in the first round of voting. Opposition parties complained of widespread irregularities, with some threatening to pull out of the December 5 election for nearly 300 remaining parliament seats.
What was announced as a landslide for the ruling NDP left opposition parties in a furor and human rights organizations shaking their heads. Leaders of the opposition Wafd party and the banned Muslim Brotherhood announced Wednesday that they were withdrawing from the Dec. 5 runoff election.
The head of Egypt's high electoral commission, Abdel Aziz Amr, declared the NDP won 209 of 221 seats in Sunday's first round of voting. Minor incidents of fraud, he insisted were being handled firmly.
He says that the electoral commission was dealing firmly with the few irregularities that took place in accordance with the law and the prosecutor is investigating every disturbance that occurred around polling stations as well as every alleged incident of tampering with voting boxes.
He said 35 percent of the country's 40-million eligible voters turned out to vote, choosing among 5,033 candidates. Eyewitnesses in many regions spoke of an "extremely light turnout."
Electoral commission spokesman Sameh Kashaf stressed there were extremely few cases of reported fraud.
He says that just 1,298 voting boxes, out of a total of 89,588 voting boxes, showed traces of irregularities and were discarded. He asks how could this small number of irregularities ruin the vast majority of polling stations that were managed correctly?
Cairo University Politics Professor Mohammad Kamal, a leading member of the NDP, told Al Jazeera TV that he had noted "many fewer problems than in previous elections."
The officially outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which ran 130 candidates, but failed to win a single seat in the first round of voting, insisted the election was "rigged." The Brotherhood's leader, Mohammed Badie, called the results "null and void".
He says the legality of everything that comes out of the next parliament will now be dubious, warning that this taints the future of Egypt and the ruling NDP.
Egyptian publisher and human rights activist Hisham Kassem said he was disappointed by the election, calling it "shameless," but says he doubted those in charge had wanted such an excessive result.
"What we have on hand, now, is a party that has [gotten] out of control, because in some constituencies, you had six people from the [ruling] party nominated, because the party could not enforce discipline on its membership and have a single candidate," he said.
"Now, if the NDP wanted to--for saving face--rig some elections or allow some opposition to get the seats, they're unable to, because the beast has gone out of hand. The individuals of the party who were running were basically behind this. I don't think that even the NDP is dumb enough to want a result like this."
Independent Egyptian election monitors complained of widespread violence, vote-rigging and intimidation of opposition candidates. White House national security spokesman Mike Hammer called the reports of irregularities "worrying."
A runoff election to determine which candidates will win the close to 300 remaining seats in Egypt's 508 member parliament will be held on December 5.
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