by Samer al-Atrush
Wed Dec 1, 2010
CAIRO (AFP) – The Muslim Brotherhood and the secular Wafd party withdrew from Egypt's election on Wednesday after a crushing first-round defeat by the president's ruling party marred by alleged fraud and violence.
The move left barely any opposition to contest the second round of the parliamentary poll this Sunday and dealt another blow to its credibility after Egypt came under heavy criticism from its US ally and human rights groups.
The Muslim Brotherhood won a fifth of the seats in the 2005 election but failed to secure a single one in Sunday's ballot.
"Sunday was marked by fraud, terrorism and violence carried out by police and thugs," the Islamists said in a statement, adding that "the Brotherhood refuses to react to such violence."
Despite the boycott, "we still plan to take all legal measures to invalidate this pseudo-parliament," they said.
The liberal Wafd party, which won only two of 508 contested seats, said it was also pulling out of the election altogether, along with its two successful candidates.
"We will withdraw from all the election. The two who won seats in the first round will also withdraw," the secular party's secretary general, Munir Fakhir Abdel Nur, told AFP.
One of Wafd's two senators, Bahaa Abu Shaqa, also said he was resigning from the upper house.
The leftist Tagammu party, which won one seat, said it would keep its candidates in the run-off.
Official figures showed President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) won 209 of 221 seats in the first round of the poll, seen as a forerunner to a crucial 2011 presidential election.
The NDP defended the election and said the Brotherhood lost its seats because it was unpopular.
"These elections will go down in history as free and clean," the party's secretary general Safwat al-Sharif told a press conference.
Senior NDP official Ahmed Ezz said opinion polls conducted by the party before the election showed the Brotherhood had marginal support in districts that were supposed to be Islamist strongholds.
"Whoever understands what the prelude was would not have been surprised by the results," he said.
He added "the headline for Sunday should be: 'How the NDP brought down the illegal organisation,'" the government's euphemism for the Brotherhood.
Most of the seats in the run-off will be contested by candidates from the NDP, which fielded more than 800 for parliament's 508 elected seats.
The Brotherhood, which ignored a call in September to boycott the poll by Egypt's former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, a key opposition figure, had earlier denounced the election as "rigged and invalid."
The Islamists said just 27 of their candidates had made it through to the second-round runoff, 16 of them sitting MPs.
The Brotherhood, which registers its candidates as independents to skirt a ban on religious parties, fielded 130 in the first round, after more than a dozen were disqualified and at least 1,200 supporters arrested.
A number of prominent independent MPs who embarrassed the government in the last parliament by raising allegations of corruption or supported opposition champion ElBaradei were also knocked out in the first round, according to media reports.
On Wednesday, Egypt sharply rejected US criticism of the way the election was conducted, calling it "unacceptable interference" in the country's domestic affairs.
The US comments "contained clear misconceptions and claims," foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said.
The White House described as "worrying" numerous reported irregularities, the lack of international monitoring and "restrictions on the basic freedoms of association, speech and press in the run-up to the elections."
Analysts say President Barack Obama's administration is giving a greater focus to its key Middle East ally ahead of next year's presidential poll for which Mubarak, 82, has yet to say whether he will stand for another term.