Sat, Dec04, 2010
CAIRO: A Coptic opposition candidate defeated in a parliamentary election accused “extremist” Islamic elements in the ruling party Friday of trying to further marginalize Egypt’s beleaguered Christian minority.
“The situation in Egypt is very serious. There is an extremist wing targeting the Christians,” Mona Makram Ebeid told AFP.
Ebeid, who contested a seat reserved for women on behalf of the liberal Wafd party in last Sunday’s controversial election, charged that her rival in the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) had been declared the winner by fraud.
Ebeid had been announced the winner Monday only for the victory to be denied the following day.
“For sure this was due to an anti-Coptic faction within the NDP … a Wahhabi Salafist current,” said Ebeid, referring to a strict version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. “As far as I can tell, they decided it was too much to have Coptic candidates elected who belonged to opposition parties,” she added.
“They decided to humiliate them because they only wanted those who had been chosen from their lists to succeed.”
Only three Copts, including Finance Minister Yousef Boutros-Ghali, were elected in the first round of voting which rights groups said was marred by widespread violence, ballot-stuffing and intimidation of opposition candidates.
The Coptic Christians, who account for up to 10 percent of Egypt’s 80-million population, often complain of discrimination and have been the target of sectarian attacks.
Bloody clashes erupted last week between Coptic protesters and police over the refusal of local authorities to grant them a permit to build a church. Two demonstrators were killed and dozens were wounded.
Official figures showed President Hosni Mubarak’s NDP won 209 of 221 seats in the first round of the poll.
In protest at alleged vote-rigging, the country’s two main opposition groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular Wafd, withdrew from the elections Wednesday. The move left barely any opposition to contest the second round of the parliamentary poll on December 5. The Brotherhood won a fifth of the seats in Egypt’s last election in 2005 but failed to secure a single one last Sunday. – AFP