Asharq al Awsat and Agencies, Cairo – The Muslim Brotherhood won no seats in the third and final round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections which were marred by violence with 10 candidates securing their seats, including 4 from the ruling National Democratic Party and 5 independents and one candidate for the Wafd Party.
35 Brotherhood candidates won places in next week’s run-off vote.
The remaining 126 seats will be contested by 256 candidates in the final round on Wednesday.
It was the first time in the three-stage elections, which began Nov. 9, that Brotherhood candidates failed to win a single seat before the runoffs. The banned group did surprisingly well in the first two rounds, winning 76 seats — five times as many as it held in the outgoing assembly.
The Brotherhood”s deputy leader, Khairat el-Shater, blamed the group”s poor performance Thursday on the government.
””They don”t want us to exceed 20 percent of the seats [in parliament] in order to retain a comfortable majority for themselves," Shater said. The NDP, which has long dominated parliament, had 201 seats after Thursday”s vote.
The ruling NDP increased its share in the next parliament to at least 277 seats thereby approaching the majority of 303 it needs to achieve a 2/3 majority.
Police clashed with voters during the balloting and blockaded polling stations in Brotherhood and other opposition strongholds, letting in only those who promised to vote for NDP candidates. One person was killed when police opened fire on a crowd of voters pushing to enter a polling station in the Nile Delta province of Kafr el-Sheik.
It was the second death in election violence since voting began. The balloting, considered a key test of President Hosni Mubarak”s openness to reform, has been plagued by battles between the government and the Brotherhood following the opposition group”s success in the early rounds.
A liberal group of judges threatened yesterday to boycott monitoring the runoff round to protest the police blockades of polling stations. Judge Ahmed Mekki also accused the police of allowing ””thugs" to assault judges in some polling stations.
The Interior Ministry on Thursday accused Brotherhood supporters of attacking judges and accused the group of sparking most of the violence that marred the polls.
Police said 170 people were wounded in clashes outside polling stations, a figure simliar to that released by the independent Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. Shater countered by pointing to the arrest of 500 Brotherhood supporters ahead of the voting and accused the government of manipulating the count.
The most dangerous thing about the elections is ””the people”s frustration and loss of hope, the feeling that peaceful change is blocked, which will result in more violence," he said.