By Marwa Awad
Tue Nov 23, 2010
CAIRO (Reuters) – Members of Egypt's ruling party and opposition Muslim Brotherhood accused each other of stoking violence before Sunday's parliamentary election, when the ruling party is expected to sweep to victory as it has for decades.
Clashes are common at Egyptian elections and several people were killed during the 2005 vote, when independent monitors and witnesses said security blocked many backers of the Brotherhood and other opposition groups from casting ballots.
The Brotherhood secured a fifth of parliament's seats in that race, to become the biggest opposition bloc by far, but it expects to lose many of those seats this time. It runs candidates as independents to skirt a ban on the group.
The head of the Brotherhood's parliamentary bloc, Mohamed el-Katatni, running in Minya south of Cairo, said thugs affiliated with the ruling party's candidate attacked his vehicle on Monday with 'machetes, chains and knives.'
'Members of his family were in the crowd,' he told Reuters.
Shadi Abu el-Ela, the NDP candidate running against Katatni, said Brotherhood supporters wounded five of his supporters during clashes at one of his campaign rallies.
'I did not exhort anyone to intercept the Brotherhood march,' Abu el-Ela told Reuters by telephone.
Security sources in Minya said early on Tuesday they were investigating allegations filed by both the parties.
There was no independent verification of the incident. Minya security sources told Reuters by telephone that police was examining medical reports and the complaints of both parties.
Next week's vote is being watched to see how much space the authorities give the Brotherhood and other opposition groups before the 2011 presidential election in which Mubarak, 82 and in power since 1981, is expected to seek another sixth term.
The president has not yet said if he will run.
In the 2005 parliament election, the Brotherhood fielded 165 candidates, securing 88 seats. Ever since, it has faced a steady state crackdown designed to curb their clout, analysts say.
The United States, which gives Egypt billions of dollars of military and other aid, has called for international monitors of the vote, a step Egypt has repeatedly rejected.
'We don't want any international monitoring agencies to interfere in Egypt's national affairs,' said an Egypt government spokesman accompanying President Hosni Mubarak on a visit to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.
'This is the business of Egypt.'
The Brotherhood said its members have been harassed by security in a wave of arrests. The group said on Monday that security had arrested more than 1,200 supporters to prevent them from campaigning. Some were freed but other were still held.
They also said the state allows NDP candidates to hold campaign marches and put up posters in all districts but stifles Islamist electoral campaigns. On Friday, security used tear gas and rubber bullets in Alexandria on campaigners, the group said.
The government insists elections are free and fair. The Interior Ministry blamed election-related violence on rivalry between candidates and clan affiliations.
Officials have said the pre-election arrests targeted campaigners who held marches without permits.
There will be no independent judicial supervision at polling stations on November 28, unlike previous elections. A commission appointed by the state will monitor the polls instead.