CAIRO,(Reuters) – The Muslim Brotherhood built up its strength as the largest opposition bloc in parliament in Egyptian elections, winning 13 seats despite a crackdown by the authorities, results showed on Monday.
Police arrested about 470 activists from the Brotherhood before and during voting on Sunday in the second stage of the elections. Police and armed gangs blocked polling stations in some Brotherhood strongholds, witnesses said.
The Brotherhood, banned since 1954 but whose candidates are standing as independents, had more than doubled its strength in parliament in the first stage of voting, making the most of unprecedented leeway from the government.
The group has now won 47 seats, showing the weight of political Islam as Egypt”s strongest opposition force.
It is contesting only one third of the chamber”s 444 elected places, not posing a threat to the ruling National Democratic Party”s (NDP)control of parliament.
Official results for half of the 144 seats contested on Sunday showed the NDP won three outright. A second round of voting will be held for most of the seats where no candidate won a majority and the NDP will contest most of the run-offs.
Brotherhood deputy leader Mohamed Habib told Reuters 13 of his candidates had won outright and another 35 would take part in run-offs. In stage two, the Brotherhood had fielded 60 candidates.
"If the elections had taken place in a good way, like the first stage, 35 of those would have won," Habib said.
The group”s strong performance in the first stage irritated the NDP and sparked the crackdown by the authorities "to reduce the number of voters and consequently the number of winners", he said.
The NDP won 112 of 164 seats in the first round, while the Brotherhood won 34. Secular opposition parties won only a handful of places.
Election monitoring groups said armed NDP supporters had threatened and intimidated voters on Sunday. One Brotherhood activist was stabbed in Alexandria, a monitoring group said.
The Interior Ministry blamed most of the violence on the Brotherhood and said the police were neutral.
One man was shot dead in Alexandria by thugs trying to intimidate voters. It was not clear for whom they were working.
The United States, which has urged Egypt to allow more political freedoms, has exerted little public pressure to ensure free and fair parliamentary elections.
Washington supports Egypt”s ban on the Brotherhood, which opposes U.S. policy in the Middle East. The group says it wants more political freedom and fuller implementation of Islamic laws in Egypt.
The third and final stage of voting, for 136 seats, starts on Dec. 1.