Electoral violence in Egypt

We wrote in our last post on the Egyptian elections:

The first-round results cast a dubious light on the apparent assumption of the neocons that a wave of democratic revolutions in the Arab and Islamic worlds will bring pro-West “moderates” and technocrats to power. They may be dramatically underestimating the degree to which radical Islam has cornered the market on popular unrest in this part of the planet. Their model seems to be Czechoslovakia 1989. A more appropriate one might be Algeria 1992.

Alas, this analysis has been further vindicated by subsequent events. Dec. 7:

DAMIETTA, Egypt (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and two men were killed in the last stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections on Wednesday in which Islamists said security forces blocked voters to limit their gains.

Five people have been killed since the staggered parliamentary election started on November 9 and which ended on Wednesday in violence that has marred the whole process.

President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party has maintained a majority but the Islamist opposition Muslim Brotherhood has surprised the country by winning 76 of 454 seats so far — five times the number it had in the last parliament.

The Brotherhood, which fielded candidates as independents because the government bans it from forming a party, said it had expected to win 15 to 20 more seats on Wednesday, but added that would depend on whether security forces let people vote.

“They are preventing voters reaching the ballot boxes so that the result will not be positive (for the Brotherhood),” Brotherhood spokesman Badr Mohamed Badr told Reuters.

An Interior Ministry statement denied security forces had barred voters and blamed the Brotherhood for violence. It said security forces were seeking “to ensure the security of voters”.

The ministry said two men were killed by shots fired in clashes near Damietta but did not say who fired them. An official security source in the northern city told Reuters by phone that police firing rubber bullets had killed the men but did not give details about how the bullets caused the deaths.

A Reuters witness saw demonstrators hurling petrol bombs at police in Damietta, the scene of some of the worst clashes.

The Brotherhood and observers said a pattern had emerged during Wednesday’s voting in which security forces blocked access to polling stations where the Brotherhood had done well in last week’s voting, before the final run-offs.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at angry would-be voters, who hurled stones at police blocking their way, Reuters witnesses reported in several areas. Rights groups and medical sources reported dozens of injuries.

The United States has toughened its previously mild criticism of the conduct of the vote after a month of clashes.

“We’ve seen a number of developments over the past couple of weeks during the parliamentary elections that raise serious concerns about the path of liberal reform in Egypt,” deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on Tuesday.

Egypt’s government pledged to hold free and fair elections.


In the Nile Delta town of Badawi, one of the seats where the Brotherhood was competing against Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), a Reuters witness saw several people hurt by rubber bullets, which caused bruising and bleeding to some.

Mohamed Foda, 22, bleeding from his head, told Reuters: “We were here since 7 o’clock waiting to vote. They didn’t let us vote. People got angry and started throwing rocks. The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.”

In the Delta town of Zagazig, police prevented about 200 veiled women from voting. Men in civilian clothes stood on the top of one polling station, which was surrounded by riot police, and pelted Brotherhood supporters below with stones.

Rights groups have accused the authorities of widespread abuses throughout the month-long elections, including blocking access to polling stations, vote-buying and fabricating results.

About 11,000 judicial personnel are monitoring the vote, which was staggered to ensure judicial supervision. But judges in polling stations monitoring the elections complained that they were powerless to prevent security men from barring voters.

“Anyone who comes in, we let them vote, but the security is not my authority, there is nothing I can do about it,” said one supervising judge in Qaleen, who asked not to be named.

As polling stations officially closed at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT), many residents in Qaleen and other areas retreated to their homes as police patrolled streets strewn with stones.

Voting had been due to take place for 127 seats but legal disputes over last week’s results delayed voting in some areas, the Brotherhood and a rights group said.

Secular opposition parties are the biggest losers, securing only a few seats, leaving the NDP on the verge of winning two thirds of seats and retaining control of the constitution.

We especially love the way the US, having pushed Egypt to hold real elections, is now obliged to protest the repression—even as (we can be sure) the CIA is closely directing much of it. Ah, statecraft!

  1. Elections a “failure”
    Egyptian Islamists real election victors

    (Dec. 8, 2005) – The Muslim Brotherhood has significantly bolstered its strength in the Egyptian parliament in elections that were marred by violence and allegations of fraud.

    According to unofficial results, the Brotherhood won 88 seats, with the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of President Hosni Mubarak returning 300 members to Egypt’s 454-seat lower house.

    The Brotherhood candidates, running as independents, now have more than five times more parliamentary representatives than prior to the election. The NDP fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for constitutional changes. However, some new members of parliament with no definite party affiliation might still join the NDP, assuring the ruling party the 302 seats it requires.

    Analysts say that a massive government crackdown on the Brotherhood before Wednesday’s final round of elections, and on the final polling day, may have prevented the Islamist party from winning an even larger share of the vote.

    Wednesday’s poll was marred by a greater number of incidences of violence and vote-rigging than occurred during the two previous rounds in November. Police cordoned off many polling stations where Muslim Brotherhood candidates were set to win.

    Elsewhere, police shot rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds trying to enter polling places. At least eight people were killed on Wednesday by police and thugs who, analysts believe, were hired by the authorities to prevent people voting for Brotherhood members.

    In the village of Bantiim-Hammoun in the Northern Nile Delta, an independent candidate unassociated with either the NDP or Brotherhood, Hamdoun Sabbahi, won despite massive vote-rigging. ISN Security Watch learned that judges in the village, who had confiscated 26 ballot boxes because of irregularities, were beaten by thugs.