Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Pharaoh's Style of Elections

700 Brotherhood candidates held ahead of polls

"Lawmakers accuse Egyptian govt of corruption; opposition members stopped from entering official buildings to register for elections

CAIRO: Only 60 out of 10,000 members of Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood have been allowed to register their candidacies for April’s local council elections due to government interference and 700 have been arrested since registration began, said one of the movement’s lawmakers Monday.

Mohammed Saad el-Katatni, the leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, told reporters in front of parliament in the capital Cairo, that policemen in many areas of the country had blocked members of the organisation from entering official buildings to register.....

The Brotherhood, which has the largest opposition bloc in parliament, has vowed to contest elections despite the crackdown.The group has been banned in Egypt since 1954, but the government has not completely shut down the Brotherhood’s activities.

Authorities have prevented the Brotherhood from forming a political party, so its members run as independents in local and national elections. Brotherhood officials said on Monday that registrations centres across the country have blocked their candidates by refusing to accept applications from people who run as independents. The deadline for registration is Thursday, the group said......

El-Katatni read a statement Monday signed by 100 lawmakers that accused the government of dictatorship and corruption, saying elections in Egypt had become like “a boogieman that frightens the government and makes it respond with actions that are not to be practiced but in the most dictatorial and corrupt regimes.”

The statement called on the government “to lift its hands from the local council elections and to correct this injustice it has committed by facilitating the registration process.” The Brotherhood advocates implementation of Islamic law but says it wants democratic reforms in Egypt, where the 79-year-old Mubarak has led an authoritarian government for a quarter century. The government accuses the group of seeking to take over the country.

The Brotherhood did surprisingly well in the 2005 legislative elections, winning 88 seats in the 454-member parliament. The government then postponed the 2006 municipal elections for two years, apparently out of fear of more Brotherhood gains.

El-Katatni said Monday that lawmakers had complained to the parliament speaker over the detention of Brotherhood members in the run-up to the April elections but had not received a reply.

“Preventing a citizen from practicing his right is a crime,” said another Brotherhood lawmaker, Akram el-Shaer. He said he had been advised by a judge not to file a lawsuit because the verdict would not be in his favour. “The most important thing here is we have succeeded to drop the veil off the government’s face, showing its terrorist conduct,” said el-Shaer. "

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