by Christophe de Roquefeuil
Tue Dec 7, 2010
CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt's ruling party has damaged its credibility with a landslide election win marred by fraud claims but its grip on parliament has been tightened ahead of the 2011 presidential poll, analysts said Tuesday.
Veteran President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) clinched control of four-fifths of parliament, securing 420 of 508 seats, according to the final results announced late Monday.
Independents garnered 70 seats while the opposition trailed far behind with 14 seats -- six going to the liberal Wafd party and none to the powerful Muslim Brotherhood which boycotted the second and last round of voting on Sunday.
'The new parliament was tailor-made' to play with the NDP's plans for next year's presidential election, said Amr el-Shobaki of Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies.
It is widely believed in Egypt that the 82-year-old incumbent president, who has ruled for 29 years, wants to pass on the baton to his 47-year-old son Gamal Mubarak, a banker who has been pushing for liberal economic reforms.
'Nothing was left to chance,' was the assessment of prominent political commentator Emad Gad.
'The NPD managed the legislative poll to prepare for the presidential election ... and has made it impossible for any independent figure to run in the presidential election,' said Gad.
But with its sweeping victory, the NDP 'has lost its credibility' both at home and abroad, Ammar Ali Hassan wrote in the independent newspaper Al-Masri Al-Yom.
The party 'had a pressing need to renew its legitimacy' but its efforts backfired, he said.
Rights groups in Egypt and abroad have charged that the polls were marred by fraud and widespread violence.
A coalition of rights groups which monitored the vote has called for the dissolution of the new parliament after Egypt's high administrative court -- whose verdicts cannot be appealed - cast doubt on the polling process.
The court issued a statement last week -- after the first round of polling on November 28 following which the Brotherhood and Wafd dropped out -- on a series of procedural violations during the vote.
The Muslim Brotherhood won a fifth of seats in parliament at the last election in 2005.
Human rights activist Bahey el-Din Hassan said parliament's 'legitimacy' was now at stake. 'It's in the interests of the regime to go to elections with institutions whose legitimacy is not undermined,' he said.
For Amr Hamzawy of the Carnegie Middle East Centre, the PND 'overplayed its hand' by cracking down on Brotherhood supporters in the runup to the legislative poll and by disqualifying opposition candidates.
'They wanted to reduce the representation of the Brotherhood and promote legal political parties like the Wafd, but it overplayed its hand,' he said.
The NDP did not need such a resounding triumph 'to clear the way for the presidential election ... (and the results of the poll) reflect an extremely negative image of Egypt.
'The results put a lot of a pressure on the government' to redress the image of the country, added Hamzawy.
Egypt has already faced repeated criticism from international human rights groups over its failure to push for real political reforms, with its handling of the election only exacerbating the situation.
The United States and European Union both expressed their concern over irregularities and violence during the election process.
Cairo has dismissed the fraud charges and called criticism of the election from its US ally as amounting to 'unacceptable interference' in Egypt's domestic affairs.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif insisted on Monday that there had been 'no interference' by the police or authorities in the polling