ShareThis Page
Claims of voting irregularities sweep across Egypt |

Claims of voting irregularities sweep across Egypt

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Claims of voting irregularities arose as Egyptians chose a national parliament yesterday, though widely-feared election-day violence did not materialize.

Low voter turnouts were reported in this Mediterranean seaport, the country’s second largest city and a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood, which wants to rule Egypt under Islamic tenets, is officially banned but its members often run for office as independents. It remains the country’s largest, most powerful opposition group.

Turnout was reportedly low elsewhere, too, and foes of President Hosni Mubarak accused his government of blocking voters at the polls.

The ruling National Democratic Party, or NDP, is expected to win a landslide when results are released today or Tuesday.

Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous nation and America’s key Arab ally.

Information Minister Anas El-Fekky reported “no election-related deaths” while some Egyptian media reported as many as eight.

“It is a day without voters and, in that respect, it is not a good day,” said Ghada Shahbandar, an Egyptian Organization for Human Rights election monitor.

She estimated that “2 to 3 percent of our voters showed up.”

She cited “many irregularities and many violations,” including opposition candidates’ monitors barred from polls, NDP candidates advertising inside those stations, and police intimidation of voters.

The parliamentary elections were a run-up to next year’s presidential race. Many Egyptians wonder if Mubarak, in office since 1981, will run again or step aside in favor of his son, Gamal.

The younger Mubarak has consistently denied any interest in becoming president.

Some analysts predicted before the vote that the government would try to restrict parliamentary opposition gains, or even reduce the seats held by its foes, to limit opposing voices in a presidential election year.

Typical of the voting-fraud complaints voiced by all sides were those arising here between Alexandria’s former governor and ruling-party candidate, Abdel Salam Al Mahgoob, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sobi Saleh.

Outside a polling station in a working-class neighborhood, Al Mahgoob’s supporters arrived in busloads to vote. “He is a respected figure and has provided many services in all of Alexandria,” said businessman and voter Ahmed El Kirsh.

Yet independent election monitors said police barred them from entering.

Outside, Muslim Brotherhood supporters chanted against the NDP candidate: “You tyrant, may God deal with you!”

“There are no observers except for the NDP. There is no freedom,” said a face-veiled Noha Badr, 37, an engineer and Brotherhood supporter. “We are sure the results were already determined yesterday” — before the vote.

Saleh, the Brotherhood candidate, said he was attacked by “thugs.”

Foreign journalists allowed inside another of the city’s polling stations found no voters, just a sleeping policeman and NDP observers.

By 2 p.m. at a poll in a crowded Alexandria neighborhood, one ballot box contained just six ballots while another was full.

On Cairo’s outskirts, opposition candidate Mona Makram-Ebeid, a Coptic Christian, said many of her observers were not allowed into polling stations. She said voter turnout was high in villages surrounding the capital, however.

“The countryside is different … it was much better,” she said. Voters there “were singing and clapping and telling me not to forget them.”

Yet she told of how an “Islamist woman tore down my (campaign) banners. She said, ‘Mona comes from America in a parachute.’ ”

Her conclusion: “It was a very good day … but you never know what the end result will be.”

In downtown Cairo, opposition candidate Gameela Ismail’s campaign reported many problems, including a man caught stuffing a ballot box and another caught on camera taking a $40 bribe to vote for an NDP candidate.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.