CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has told his party to connect with voters after its majority was modestly reduced to 75 percent of parliament”s seats during elections in which opposition Islamists made big gains.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which fields candidates as independents because it is banned from forming a party, won 88 seats in the 454-seat lower house, nearly six times the number it had in the previous parliament. It contested slightly more than a third of the places.
Although the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) kept a big majority in the staggered elections that ran for a month until Dec. 7, it was less than the roughly 85 percent it had in the previous parliament.
"The president stressed during the meeting the need for deputies in parliament to make contact with their constituencies and citizens, saying the deputies should feel the pulse of the street and the problems of citizens," presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said.
Awad”s comments were carried by state-owned newspapers on Tuesday after Mubarak spoke to newly elected NDP deputies on Monday.
As well as a slightly reduced majority, there was also a high turnover of new NDP deputies. Mohammed Kamal, a senior NDP official, told Reuters this indicated that some former deputies had not connected closely enough with voters.
"(Mubarak) was giving advice to new MPs because it seems that many MPs who were already in the parliament didn”t make it in this election, so he probably attributed that to a lack of a strong bond with their constituency," he said.
Many MPs now classified as NDP deputies had initially run as independents in the vote against the officially listed NDP candidate and were only later readmitted back into the NDP.
Kamal said parties in Egypt remained weak because many voters still preferred to vote for individuals with a reputation in the community. He said the Brotherhood had secured so many seats because voters rallied around a "religious idea".
Brotherhood officials say they have built support by their close contacts with constituents. Their campaigns closely focused on their local community”s problems such as poor sewerage or public transport.
The group, Egypt”s biggest opposition group and which is officially banned, said it would have won more seats if riot police had not stopped voters reaching the polling stations during the elections that were marred by violence.
Rights and opposition groups say at least 12 people were killed in election-related violence. The government blamed violence on Brotherhood supporters.