ZAQAZIQ/CAIRO: Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members demonstrated Thursday, the last day of registration for the April 8 local council elections
Demonstrators congregated in front of court houses in the three provinces of Zaqaziq, Tanta and Alexandria to protest a government crackdown which has prevented hundreds of potential candidates from nominating themselves.
They chanted slogans such as “This is blatant injustice, why did they close the registration doors? as well as others linking regime’s corruption with rising food prices and the scarcity of subsidize bread.
In Zaqaziq northeast of Cairo nearly 3,000 MB members led by Brotherhood MPs had gathered to condemn the detentions of their fellow members.
Brotherhood lawyer Hassan Al-Bahrawi in Sharqeya governorate told Daily News Egypt that security forces had rounded up 56 potential MB municipal election nominees and activists. He added that 213 candidates had obtained court orders stipulating that the elections committee must accept their registration.
He added that the committee was controlled by state security, adding that the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) had waited till the last minute to register its candidates to avoid any split inside the party and to make sure that their candidates will face no competition.
The group’s website, ikhwanweb.com, states that 14 members were arrested yesterday after house raids in Cairo and Menufiya.
The chief editor of ikhwanweb.com, Khaled Hamza, was himself arrested in February in a street in Nasr City, Cairo, shortly after a meeting with Violette Dagherre, chairwoman of the Arab Commission for Human Rights.
Dagherre was in Egypt in solidarity with a group of 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood currently being tried in a military court on charges of membership of a proscribed organization.
According to Ikhwanweb.com Hamza, who suffers from heart problems, was transferred to hospital after a deterioration of his health caused, the website alleges, by both the “inhumane conditions inside the prison and interrogators’ withholding essential medication in an attempt to pressure Hamza into talking.
“The state is clamping down on these so-called elections which we all know are rigged and illegitimate as are all elections run by this government, said Hamdy Hassan, spokesman for the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc.
According to Mahmoud Ezzat, the group’s secretary general, more than 800 MB members have been detained since the latest wave of arrests began in February, to thwart the group’s intention to contest the elections.
Ezzat says that the authorities have employed “devilish tactics in order to prevent Brotherhood members from standing for election.
“We have had instances of members putting forward complete and correct candidate papers, which are then tampered with in order to render them invalid, he told Daily News Egypt.
“Almost 10,000 Brotherhood candidates had wished to contest these elections but only a fraction of that number have been accepted as a result of these methods.
The Interior Ministry and the committee overseeing the elections have issued decrees preventing Brotherhood members filling candidacy applications.
Some of these decrees have been overturned in legal challenges brought by the Brotherhood.
Most recently in the governorate of Beni Suef the Administrative Court ruled that 36 Brotherhood nominees had the right to stand for election.
“In some instances judges have ruled that individuals who are in political detention may stand for election, Ezzet told Daily News Egypt. “The Brotherhood enjoys the support of the people and all political forces. We will continue the battle.
Out of 5,159 hopefuls, only 438 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been able to register a few hours before the Thursday registration deadline, the group’s deputy supreme guide Mohamed Habib told AFP.
MB candidates running as independents in the 2005 parliamentary elections won 20 percent of total seats, forming the largest opposition bloc.