CAIRO, (Reuters) – Opposition parties secured just four of the 88 seats up for grabs in an election to parliament’s upper house this week and the ruling party swept most of the rest in a vote rights groups said was marred by abuses.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which ran candidates as independents to skirt an official ban, won no seats even though it controls 20 percent of the lower house of parliament, according to results announced by the official election body on Thursday.
The outcome of the vote was never in doubt but the process was being watched to see how much space the authorities would give opponents before a lower house election later this year and a presidential poll in 2011.
“The results are expected. The government wants to stay in control,” said Nabil Abdel Fattah, political analyst from al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
The chairman of the Supreme Electoral Committee, Intisar Nasim, told a news conference that 30 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots in the Shura Council upper house vote for 88 of the council’s 264 seats.
Turnout is usually low in the Shura vote, partly because constituencies are bigger than for the lower house and many Egyptians have little knowledge of who is running. “The voters did not go because they feel the government does not have any real intention for reform,” Abdel Fattah added.
Rights groups and observers cited a range of abuses during voting, including saying security forces and ruling party backers had blocked many opposition voters from casting ballots.
Some monitors with permission to watch voting said they had been turned out of polling stations.
Egyptian officials said voting was smooth and that complaints had been investigated promptly.
“This election result is not legal because the government faked the election … The government wants to send a message to the people that there is no real election,” said Hussein Ibrahim, a lower house member from the Brotherhood group.
The Brotherhood had said it won no seats on Wednesday despite fielding 13 candidates in districts where it secured seats in the 2005 lower house vote.
Overall, President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party won 74 seats — 14 in constituencies that were not contested.
The Tagammu, Nasserite and Generation opposition parties each won a seat. Opposition groups are weak in Egypt and have little impact on politics.
A fourth seat went to a party called al-Ghad, which carries the same name as one founded by Ayman Nour, Mubarak’s main rival in the 2005 presidential race. Analysts say they suspect the authorities tacitly helped the formation of the new al-Ghad party to undermine Nour’s group.
Ten seats will be re-run after no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote.