Political rivals trade accusations of electoral breaches

Salma Shukrallah, Tuesday 29 Nov 2011

First-round poll results remain largely uncertain until now, but tit-for-tat allegations of electoral violations are rife

Party flyers
Second Day of elections. All accused of violations, none admits allegations. (Photo: AP)

While voter turnout remains uncertain, all estimates suggest it was exceptionally high in Egypt’s first post-revolution parliamentary contest. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) was the only party to release a formal statement estimating voter turnout, which it put at roughly 30 per cent of eligible voters.

According to Hani Naguib, a member of the liberal-oriented Egyptian Bloc, two voting lists that proved popular – despite facing fierce counter-campaigns – are the Egyptian Bloc and the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party. Naguib said he expected that the bloc's share of seats would not fall below 20 per cent of the assembly.

Many Egyptian Coptic-Christians are expected to vote for Egyptian Bloc candidates, partially to offset the expected ascendance Islamist parties.

Hani Abu Bakar, Wasat Party member and coordinator of the Essam Sultan campaign in Damietta, claimed the FJP had committed a number of electoral violations.

“In Damietta, Muslim Brotherhood and FJP members verbally assaulted Sultan in an online video,” he told Ahram Online. “They also tried to assault him physically, but people stopped them.”

Facing media attacks by their electoral rivals, the FJP – widely expected to dominate the polling – released a press statement praising the electoral process and condemning unfounded media reports of electoral transgressions.

“From the negative reporting by a few media outlets that have distorted the day’s success, it’s clear which factions are working for Egypt’s stability and which aim to hinder the electoral process,” the statement read. “Some of these channels are privately owned by our electoral rivals while others belong to those still loyal to the former regime [of ousted president Hosni Mubarak].”

Leading member of the Salafist Nour Party Nader Bakar has also denied allegations that his party committed electoral violations. He also expressed disappointment that voter support for the Nour Party appeared lower than expected.

Bakar went on to accuse others of committing violations against his party, which, he believes, may have influenced voting.

“Some people at polling stations have deceived voters into thinking that the Nour Party’s symbol isn’t the lantern but another symbol,” he said. “The Egyptian church, meanwhile, is bussing voters in to cast ballots for the candidates that the church supports, especially in Assiut.”

Speaking to Ahram Online, Wafd Party member Hossam El-Khouly condemned both camps – Islamist and Coptic – for using religion for political ends, saying the practice was “splitting the nation in two.”

According to El-Khouly, the Wafd Party in particular has suffered from this practice since it does not associate itself exclusively with either camp. Egypt’s oldest liberal party, the Wafd split from the Muslim Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance electoral coalition only weeks before polling began.

Talaat Fahmy, a member of the “Revolution Continues” (RC) electoral coalition, said that “several developments” may have influenced his coalition’s electoral performance, although he declined to speculate further.

Many of the RC’s young members are currently taking part in an ongoing Tahrir Square sit-in against military rule, leaving fewer to campaign and supervise polling stations. Additionally, polling stations have seen several violations, including the presence of ballots outside the station and the absence of official stamps on elections-related documents. What’s more, Fahmy alleges, Muslim Brotherhood members have been seen accompanying voters to polling stations, telling them who to vote for and filling out their ballots.

Two more rounds remain to be fought in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls. Preliminary results are unclear until now, but the first round of voting has yielded considerable speculation and tit-for-tat claims of electoral breaches.

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