- Title: EGYPT: Voters divided on disputed elections
- Date: 30th November 2010
- Summary: AL-MASRY AL YOUM NEWSPAPER, WITH HEADLINE READING: "Egypt Voted [which can also mean 'Egypt Screamed' in Arabic]" STATE-RUN AL-AKHBAR NEWSPAPER WITH HEADLINE READING: 'CALM ATMOSPHERE IN THE MAJORITY OF VOTING BOOTHS, UNREST IN ONLY A FEW'
- Embargoed: 15th December 2010 12:00
- Location: Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: Economic News
- Reuters ID: LVAAVJA9RK5YHUJASXRPRXB8TCXN
- Story Text: There were mixed reactions on the streets of Cairo on Monday (November 29) to controversial parliamentary elections that were expected to maintain a large majority for the country's ruling party.
Sunday's (November 28) vote was marred by opposition charges of ballot stuffing and intimidation, although the government has said the vote was relatively problem-free.
Earlier on Monday the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition bloc in the outgoing parliament, said it won no seats outright in the first round of a vote it said was rigged, and that few candidates would stand in a run-off.
Newspaper reports differed sharply depending on their political affiliation, with opposition supporters emphasising clashes at polling stations and fraud allegations and government papers calling the elections a success.
At a newspaper stall in central Cairo, voters were divided over whether the elections had been fair.
Walid Shalaby said that allegations of fraud were only being made by foreigners.
"These [claims of election fraud] are things being said by foreigners who want to spread conflict between Egyptians, but what happened [the elections] was one hundred percent democratic," he said.
Mohamed Abdelmoneim said that he was shocked that the government seemed to have declared victory for some of its candidates before official results are announced.
"These elections weren't fair, where is this fairness? They [newspapers] are announcing the success of the government," he said.
While allegations of fraud were rife, there was less violence than expected during the elections. In Egypt's 2005 Parliamentary vote, 14 people were killed in clashes.
Badr El-Din Ali, who cast his ballot in the Nile Delta city of Menoufiya, said voting had been calm in his district.
"In all honesty, I voted in the Menoufia governorate but I didn't witness fraud. When I entered the voting booth nobody forced me to vote for a certain person. However, some newspapers published that there was fraud, yes, in some areas there was -- they resorted to bullying, winning by any means possible. Nevertheless, where I voted, I did not witness any of that honestly," he said.
While violence was lower than expected there were some clashes between rival candidates, and two deaths that rights groups said were related to the vote, though the government denies this.
But while there were less clashes than in Egypt's previous parliamentary elections, there were widespread claims of fraud.
Mahmoud Desouki said that the winner of elections in his district would depend on who could buy more votes.
"Yesterday was all based on money. Nothing is for free, those with money paid more, in Basateen and Dar El Salam areas were all for money. It was between Akmal and Heshmat Abo Hagar and it was all for money, it was a circus," he said.
This year's parliamentary vote takes on added importance because the next parliament will have the power to approve candidates in Egypt's crucial 2011 presidential elections, which could see a transition away from the rule of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
With that election looming on the horizon, human rights activist Nagad El-Boraie said Egypt has a long way to go before it can call its electoral process democratic.
"We didn't have any elections, we couldn't call it elections anymore because what is the meaning of elections? The meaning of elections is that the voters can go freely and choose their representatives in the parliament. Then this is simply, that if the voter didn't go to the poll station, if after they going to the poll station they discovered that someone else put the ballot in the box without any free will from them, if they choose a person and the government declare that another person will represent them on the parliament then we couldn't call it elections," he said.
The High Elections Commission, a body of judges and parliamentary nominees, said a quarter of Egypt's 41 million registered voters turned out for Sunday's first round of voting, but the opposition said figures were much lower.
El-Boraei said most Egyptians had stayed home because they have no faith in the process.
"The people decided to stay home, they declare their protest peacefully and smoothly. They said okay we will not be part of this game -- play your game alone, choose whoever you want, but those people we will not call them our representatives," he said.
The results of the elections are expected to be announced on Tuesday (November 30), with runoffs for seats that had no clear winner scheduled for December 5th.
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