CAIRO (AFP) – The Egyptian opposition weighed up its limited options on Wednesday after the ruling party crushed its main rival the Muslim Brotherhood in a bitterly-disputed parliamentary election.
The National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak won 209 of 221 seats in the first round of voting, according to official figures released late on Tuesday night.
“Electoral earthquake in the ranks of the opposition,” ran the headline of the independent daily Al-Shuruk.
In Sunday’s election, which took place amid charges of widespread violence and fraud, the outlawed but generally tolerated Muslim Brotherhood failed to win a single seat outright, while the legal secular opposition parties Tagammu and Wafd were also hammered.
Most of the seats in next Sunday’s run-off will be contested by candidates of Mubarak’s NDP, which fielded more than 800 for parliament’s 508 elected seats.
“We are going to raise with President Mubarak everything that happened during the elections and present him with a file documenting all the violations,” the liberal Wafd party’s leader Al-Sayyed Al-Baddawi was quoted as saying by the party’s mouthpiece daily newspaper.
Wafd secretary general Munir Fakhir Abdel Nur told AFP the party would hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide on its next move.
“It makes no sense that one party control 96 percent of parliament. It would be better to save the money that is allocated to parliament and ask the NDP’s political committee to take over the role.”
The Muslim Brotherhood threatened to pull out of the second-round run-offs scheduled for next Sunday, after denouncing the election as “rigged and invalid.”
“We are studying whether or not to continue,” senior Brotherhood member Mohammed Mursi said on Tuesday.
The Muslim Brotherhood said before the results were announced that at least 26 of its candidates would stand in the second round, 16 of them sitting MPs.
The Islamists, who register their candidates as independents to get round a ban on religious parties, fielded 130 in the first round, after more than a dozen were disqualified and at least 1,200 supporters arrested.
One of the founders of Tagammu, former MP El-Badri Farghali, resigned along with 150 party members in Port Said, accusing the party’s president of “making it a branch of the NDP.”
A number of prominent independent MPs who embarrassed the government in the last parliament by raising allegations of corruption or supported opposition champion Mohammed ElBaradei were also knocked out in the first round, press reports said on Wednesday.
Human rights groups say the first round of voting was marred by widespread violence and fraud, and the White House expressed disappointment at the way the poll was conducted.
Egypt’s electoral commission dismissed the charges.
“While the commission regrets that certain irregularities took place, it is satisfied with the fact that these irregularities did not impact on the transparency of the first round of the election,” commission spokesman Sameh el-Kashef said.
Analysts say President Barack Obama’s administration is giving a greater focus to its key Middle East ally as a presidential election looms in 2011. Mubarak, 82, has yet to say whether he will stand for another term.
“Washington policy-makers are concerned by what seems to be a deterioration in political liberties ahead of the first leadership succession in 30 years,” said Michele Dunne, a former State Department diplomat.
Election officials said 35 percent of the country’s 41 million eligible voters participated in Sunday’s poll, but monitors gave a far lower estimate of less than 15 percent.