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Elections Under Mubarak 2000-2010

November 2000 Elections

The November 2000 elections were generally considered to have been more transparent and better executed than past elections, because of universal judicial monitoring of polling stations. On the other hand, opposition parties continue to lodge credible complaints about electoral manipulation by the government. There are significant restrictions on the political process and freedom of expression for non-governmental organizations, including professional syndicates and organizations promoting respect for human rights.

The Egyptian Government ignored the consensus that existed outside its own constituency, concerning the three reforms needed to make Egypt's democratic transformation as a realistic project: (1) limiting the term of office as well as the powers vested in the President as head of the executive; (2) rescinding the state of emergency; and (3) changing the laws obstructing the establishment and functioning of political parties and NGOs. The major dilemma of Egypt's democratic transformation is the absence of viable opposition movements with broad constituencies. The four major opposition parties - Al Wafd, Unionist, Arab Nasserist, and Al Ghad Parties - are structurally weak and lack constituencies large enough to mobilize popular support. Ten other small parties are active, but their numbers and basic relevance is inconsequential.

September 2005 Presidential Election

Progress was seen in the September 2005 presidential elections when parties were allowed to field candidates against President Mubarak and his National Democratic Party. In early 2005, President Mubarak proposed amending the constitution to allow, for the first time in Egypt's history, competitive, multi-candidate elections. An amendment was drafted by parliament and approved by public referendum in late May 2005. In the course of his re-election campaign speeches, Mubarak promised to reduce the powers of the presidency in favour of the cabinet and the parliament, which would be granted greater powers of oversight. He also promised a number of constitutional and legal reforms to enable wider opposition representation in parliament. In September 2005, President Mubarak was reelected, according to official results, with 88% of the vote.

His two principal challengers, Ayman Nour and No'man Gom'a, took 7% and 3% of the vote respectively. Runner-up in the 2005 presidential election and leader of the opposition Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party Ayman Nour was jailed for nearly four years on forgery charges said by his supporters to be fabricated. Nour remained in prison at the end of 2008, despite continued appeals for parole on health and humanitarian grounds. The New Cairo Felonies Court convicted Nour in 2005.

For the first time in Egyptian history, opposition candidate's names appeared on the ballot, and some campaigning by candidates was permitted. Previously, the Egyptian Parliament would vote to permit only one name to go forward on the Presidential ballot, and then voters would be given the option only of voting "yes" or "no" to the chosen candidate, who was typically the incumbent President.

November-December 2005 Parliamentary Election

The promises of gradual political reform suffered setbacks in the three-round parliamentary election held from November to December 2005. While the elections resulted in massive gains for the opposition, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, they also witnessed widespread election violations. In the end, opposition representatives ended up winning almost 100 of the 444 elected seats in the People's Assembly, up from only 40 in the outgoing assembly. Of these, 88 were won by candidates affiliated with the Brotherhood. The voter turnout turned out to be extremely low. According to official or govern-ment statements, 23 percent. Independent NGOs and monitoring groups, domestic moni-toring groups, put it somewhere between 15 and 18 percent.

Voting - especially in the third and final election round - was marred by reports of widespread intimidation and violent clashes between voters and security forces, with voters repeatedly prevented from gaining access to polling stations by security agents. In areas where opposition candidates were likely to win, polling areas were cordoned off from the public. In some voting districts, after would-be voters protested, police responded by firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into crowds, bringing the total number of election-related deaths to 12. In the end, the ruling NDP was left with some 315 seats, noticeably fewer than the 388 representatives it controlled in the outgoing assembly, but still above the two-thirds majority needed to control legislation. The weakness of the secular opposition parties was driven home when they won a total of only 14 seats between them. This included the neo-liberal Wafd Party, traditionally referred to as Egypt's strongest opposition party.

"While the Egyptian elections did not meet internationally recognized standards of fairness, the mere fact that the regime allowed the opposition a place on the ballot has opened a doorway," said U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). "The Egyptian elections were the first step on a long road to creating a true democracy, but it remains to be seen whether the regime will walk the rest of the path."

April 2008 Local Election

In March 2007, Mubarak introduced several constitutional amendments that would increase presidential powers and, more significantly, ban any political parties based on religion, race, or ethnicity. The amendments were put to a popular referendum and, despite low voter turnout and boycotts by opposition groups, passed with 75.9% approval.

On 17 February 2008, President Mubarak announced that local council elections would take place 08 April 2008. Local councils are responsible for implementing legislation and monitoring daily local functions of the government municipalities. Many opposition candidates from registered political parties and the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] reported difficulties registering and alleged a government campaign to prevent opposition candidates from participating in the elections. More than 3,000 MB candidates prevented from registering sued the government. Although the courts ruled in favor of the MB candidates in 2,664 suits, the majority of the rulings were not implemented. On April 7, following weeks of arrests and official hurdles placed in the way of candidate registration, the MB called on citizens to join it in "boycotting this fraudulent process." On April 8, the local elections took place in 26 governorates where candidates contested approximately 52,000 total seats. There were 57,000 candidates in total, of whom 52,000 were NDP members. Independent observers estimated that the voter turnout was less than 3 percent. NDP candidates won 92 percent of the seats, and the rest went to the liberal Wafd party. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace described the elections as "a step backwards for Egyptian politics".

2008-2009 Parliamentary By-elections

In July 2008 the country held parliamentary by-elections for four vacant parliament seats in Kafr Al Sheikh and Alexandria. MB-affiliated candidates ran for three of the seats, but the NDP won all four. The MB subsequently accused the government of rigging the vote to favor the NDP. The four seats had been vacant since a legal challenge during the 2005 parliamentary election, which international monitors were not permitted to observe. The government also barred international observers from the 2005 presidential election, which was marred by low voter turnout and charges of fraud. In October 2008 the country held parliamentary by-elections for two seats in Fayoum (Utssa Constituency). The NDP won both contested seats, which had been vacant since a legal challenge during the 2005 parliamentary election.

In February 2009 the country held parliamentary by-elections for one seat in Minya (Samalout), which became vacant following the death of an NDP member of parliament. The NDP candidate won the seat. In March 2009 and May 2009, there were parliamentary by-elections for a seat in Cairo (Masr El Qadima Constituency) and another in Alexandria (Moharram Bek Constituency), which became vacant following the death of an NDP member of parliament. The NDP candidate won the seat. In August 2009 there were parliamentary by-elections for two vacant seats in Qaliuybia, and the NDP won both seats.

December 2010 Parliamentary Election

On 06 December 2010 election monitors in Egypt said widespread fraud marred the country's parliamentary election that produced a landslide victory for President Hosni Mubarak's party. The Independent Coalition for Elections' Observation said that voting violations, including forgery, raise serious questions about the legitimacy of the new parliament. But Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif described the process as "the best in Egypt's election history." The country's two major opposition groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and the liberal Wafd party, boycotted the second round run-off in protest of alleged fraud in last week's first round. The Muslim Brotherhood failed to win a single seat outright in the first round of balloting, although the group won about one-fifth of the seats in the 2005 elections. The group is outlawed in Egypt, but runs its candidates as independents. Mr. Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party [NDP] captured 209 seats outright in the first round of voting. That left 283 seats to be decided in the second round.

The NDP continued to dominate national politics by maintaining an overriding majority in the People's Assembly and the Shura Council. It also dominated local governments, mass media, labor, and the public sector and controlled licensing of new political parties, newspapers, and private organizations. The law prohibits political parties based on religion, and the MB remained an illegal organization; however, independent MB-affiliated members of parliament continued to participate in parliament. In previous years the government refused to grant official registration to at least 12 political parties that had filed applications. In August 2009 the political parties committee rejected the Al-Wasat Party's application for registration.

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