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Brotherhood students deny stalling Egypt student union poll

Elections for Egypt's Student Union are delayed by dispute over balloting rules; Muslim Brotherhood students deny allegations of trying to trip up electoral process

Ahram Online, Nada El-Kouny, Thursday 11 Apr 2013
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Student protest at Cairo University, February 2012 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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A number of student unions taking part in student elections at universities nationwide have accused Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated students of attempting to stall the electoral process.

A joint statement by 13 student unions, including those from Cairo and Ain Shams universities, claimed that Brotherhood-affiliated students had damaged ballot boxes on Tuesday in Helwan to protest the charter regulating the elections.

Other signatories included the student unions of Helwan, Banha, Tanta, Alexandria, Menoufiya, Kafr El-Sheikh, Assiut, Aswan, Port Said, Suez Canal and Suez universities.

The dispute was mostly over whether the winners of the polls would be chosen by simple or absolute majority.

Muslim Brotherhood student spokesperson Suhaib Abdel-Maqsoud told Ahram Online that the allegations were unfounded.

"While there were disagreements, we respect the voting process and would in no way carry out such an act [of vandalism]," Abdel-Maqsoud said.

He also said he opposed the decision to delay the election.

Abdel-Maqsoud added that he would prefer the vote to be decided by absolute majority, as had been the case with the first round of polling that took place at universities last month.

The higher education ministry on Wednesday stated that the new 2013 student charter did not specify the exact mechanism for electing the Egyptian Student Union president, saying that it would take the final decision in this regard.

According to Abdel-Maqsoud, this represents a failure by the election committee, which drafted the bylaws.

Mustafa Fouad, an Ain Shams University law student and a signatory to the statement, told Ahram Online that the real reason for the dispute was the Brotherhood's initial losses in the first round of elections last month.

The statement criticised the electoral committee and the lack of adequate security at the polling.

The statement called for the immediate formation of a legal committee to resolve the dispute. Members of the committee, it said, to be chosen by the higher education ministry, should include a judge from the justice ministry, two law school deans and a ministry representative.

The statement went on to call for the reversal of the higher education ministry's decision to bar the media from monitoring elections.

It also called for two representatives of private universities to be appointed to the Student Union Council, as is stipulated by the student charter.

On Wednesday, a ministry source said the ministry would postpone the elections – which began on Tuesday – until Friday.

The supervising committee decided to halt the electoral process and request that the ministry's legal advisor to look into the voting dispute.

Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated students suffered significant losses in this year's student union elections, which they had formerly dominated.

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