CAIRO: The third and final round of Egypt s parliamentary elections was overshadowed by mass arrests, violence and at least one death. Eyewitnesses in the governorates of Mansoura and Sharqiya reported human blockades in the early hours of voting. Scuffles broke out frequently in front of polling stations, with opposition supporters alleging the fights were staged so to scare potential voters away.
“They come out and cause a commotion and fake a fight and then they use it as an excuse for the security to close the polling station, said Ibrahim El-Houdaiby, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter in Sharqiya.”Some people managed to enter because they open and close them for a bit,but the thugs are walking around all the time with sticks.
The success of the Muslim Brotherhood in the first two rounds of elections has further roused the nation in this turbulent year in politics. The outlawed but tolerated group earned 13 seats in the second round of voting, bringing them to 76 seats – a major jump from the 17 seats they occupied following the 2000 election. The Muslim Brotherhood is expected to make great gains after the final tally in this round.
Still, their gains have made them a greater target for authorities. According to Amnesty International, as many as 1,500 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested over the last three days,most of them supporters and campaign volunteers.
Election monitors witnessed a number of irregularities in the nine governorates participating in yesterday s vote. According to the Independent Committee on Election Monitoring (ICEM), more than two-thirds of the polling facilities observed by their monitors reportedly opened late.The group also calls to attention the beatings of their observers, allegedly by National Democratic Party (NDP) supporters. Several journalists claimed to have been victims of intimidation from security forces, with reports of beatings and confiscated cameras.
In Kafr El Sheikh, the death of a campaign supporter sparked chaos outside of polling stations. According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, security forces in the constituencies of Borollos and Hamour fired rubber bullets and tear gas at voters, leading to the death of 35-yearold Goma a Saad al Zeftawi, a supporter of independent candidate and Karamah Party founder, Hadeen Sabahi. Nearly a dozen more campaign supporters were injured.
Monitors also report the continuation of ballot irregularities, including fraudulent votes and voter lists with missing names or names of the deceased.
In Mansoura, an unidentified neutral witness reported to The Daily Star Egypt that in the Sandoub constituency, barricades surrounded the periphery of the town, blocking voters from the town s two polling stations. As a result, no one, apart from one of the candidates, was able to access polling stations the entire day.
More than 10 million Egyptians were eligible to vote in this, the final round of voting. Those elected in this leg of the election process are set to fill the remaining 136 of parliament s 444 elected seats.