CAIRO (Reuters) -The Muslim Brotherhood built its strength in Egypt”s parliament this weekend, winning 29 seats in elections despite restrictions on voting and arrests of its supporters, official results showed on Sunday.
The Islamist group has now won 76 seats — more than five times the number it held in the outgoing chamber. About a third of parliament”s 444 elected places have still to be decided.
The officially banned Brotherhood is contesting only a third of the seats, not posing a challenge to control over parliament by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which won 75 places in voting on Saturday, bringing its total to about 195.
But the Brotherhood”s wins have shown the weight of political Islam as the strongest opposition force in Egypt and caught the government and NDP off guard.
The authorities have curbed leeway given to the Islamists in the early stages of voting. Police restricted voting and detained 860 of the Brotherhood”s activists on Saturday — the fourth of six days of legislative elections.
Riot police cordoned off polling stations in Brotherhood strongholds, either preventing anybody from voting or allowing only a trickle of people to cast ballots.
"The aim was to prevent voters from reaching the ballot boxes and to affect the result," Brotherhood deputy leader Mohamed Habib told Reuters. "But with perseverance the people and the Brotherhood were able to overcome the barriers."
The Brotherhood said its candidate in the oasis town of Fayoum south of Cairo had defeated high-ranking NDP official and former deputy Prime Minister Youssef Wali.
A Brotherhood candidate also defeated Khaled Mohieldin, head of the opposition Tagammu Party and one of the last surviving leaders of the 1952 coup which overthrew the monarchy, the Brotherhood said.
Secular opposition parties have won only a handful of seats so far. Two candidates from the liberal Wafd Party won seats on Saturday.
Monitors said NDP supporters and the Brotherhood had brawled in places. Armed thugs attacked Brotherhood supporters with machetes in at least one town, witnesses and the victims said.
Police also tried to stop journalists reporting freely. Reporters working for the French agency AFP, Reuters, the British Broadcasting Corporation and the U.S.-based Associated Press all said they had been harassed or had equipment or papers seized.
The Brotherhood, which advocates political freedoms and wants to bring legislation closer to Islamic law, is fielding candidates for 49 of the 136 seats at stake in the final round beginning on December 1.