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Violence Mars Egyptian Election Second Round



20 November 2005

Widespread violence has disrupted the second round of Egypt's parliamentary election. The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood says police have detained at least 350 of its supporters and election workers. The group says at least 42 people were wounded in clashes in the northern port city of Alexandria. At least one man has been confirmed killed, reportedly the driver of an independent candidate, and there are reports of a second fatality.

Violence erupted in several places, as voters went to the polls in nine provinces for the second round of Egypt's parliamentary election.

The banned Muslim Brotherhood and independent election monitors say large groups of armed men attacked voters and election workers alike.

One of the Muslim Brotherhood candidates in Alexandria, Hamdi Hassan Ali, said voting went relatively smoothly in the morning, but then things went bad.

"Thugs came with batons, knives and swords, and started attacking voters," he said. "There was intense fighting between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the armed thugs."

He accused police and state security officers of supervising the attackers, and intimidating voters themselves. He says police response to the violence was to surround several polling stations with hundreds of officers, which scared many voters away.

A statement from the Interior Ministry, which oversees police and state security forces, confirmed that some arrests had been made. It blamed the violence on supporters of the Brotherhood, and accused them of starting riots outside several polling stations. The ministry said police were careful to maintain neutrality in securing the voting places.

The deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Habib, linked the crackdown to the group's success in the first stage of voting earlier this month, when it more than doubled its seats in parliament.

"It is worth mentioning that the 34 seats the Muslim Brotherhood won in the first stage has worried the authorities and the [ruling party] to a great extent, and caused them confusion and panic," he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has been officially outlawed in Egypt for decades but is tolerated by the government, cannot officially field candidates for parliament. Its members run as independents.

The ruling National Democratic Party won about 80 percent of the seats in the first round. Its only significant opposition came from members of the Brotherhood.

Voting in the first stage was relatively peaceful, compared with Sunday's second-round violence, although there were numerous irregularities reported.

The current round of voting will continue with runoff elections on Saturday in districts where no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote. The third and final stage of voting starts in nine more provinces on December 1, and the final votes should have been cast by December 7.



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