Violence at Egyptian poll

The month-long polls that kicked off on November 9 claimed their first victim when the driver for an independent candidate was beaten to death by
thugs hired by the ruling National Democratic Party, independent vote monitors said.

“What is happening today is beyond imagination. Which other country uses
drugged-up thugs to beat up the sons of the nation? They are ready to use their
knives to prevent citizens from voting,” local Brotherhood candidate Mahmud
Attiyah told Agence France-Presse.

Sources at Alexandria hospital confirmed the death of Mohammed Khalil, a 37-year-old father of three who worked as a driver for NDP enegade Hassan Hussein Hassan.

A second independent candidate, Seif Eddin al-Kabbari, was stabbed by
unknown men in the Karmuz district of Alexandria.

The Mediterranean city is an Islamist bastion and saw most of the violence,
which pitted supporters of the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood against NDP supporters armed with knives and sometimes drugged or drunk.

While the NDP’s dominance of the political scene was not in doubt after
securing 112 out of 164 seats up for grabs in the first phase, the Brotherhood
won a surprise 34 seats, twice its tally in 2000.

With the second phase including many of their traditional strongholds, the
Muslim Brothers could theoretically be on course for 100 MPs in the 454-seat
People’s Assembly.

“The success recorded by the Muslim Brothers during the first phase sparked
fear in the regime, which cannot bear the presence of opposition in parliament,” the Islamist movement’s number two Mohammed Habib told AFP.

There were several unconfirmed reports of other deaths and injuries from
monitors in Alexandria and across the country once polling stations closed.

In Damanhur, northwest of Cairo, security forces used tear gas to quell
violent clashes. Monitors said criminals were released from prison and used by the NDP to intimidate voters in the Gharbiya governorate.

“The situation is getting worse and worse, and the operation is deteriorating in many spots, we have a lot of examples of interference in favour of the NDP,” said Sherif Mansur of the independent Ibn Khaldun Centre
for Development Studies.

Security sources said some 200 Islamist supporters were rounded up over the weekend in ares taking part in the second phase of the polls.

Dozens of supporters were also arrested across the country during the polling process.

“We insist on continuing the polling and these arrests are evidence of the ruling party’s interference in the elections,” Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Issam al-Aryan said.

The Islamist movement announced it had withdrawn its candidate running
against a Christian Copt from the NDP in the Moharrem Bek constituency of
Alexandria.

The first phase, centred on Cairo, ended on Wednesday, amid accusations of widespread irregularities.

It also signalled the demise of the secular opposition, with presidential
runner-up and Ghad party leader Ayman Nur crashing to defeat and an alliance of other parties failing to make any impact.

The second phase involves close to 1,800 candidates battling it out over
144 seats. Runoffs will take place on November 26 before the final phase starts on December 1.

Legal parties need five percent of parliament — or 25 seats — to field a
candidate in presidential elections.

But independents require the approval of at least 65 members, according to
a constitutional amendment which the Brotherhood says was designed to prevent it from running.