Egypt’s major Islamic movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has reported significant gains in the most recent round of parliamentary polls. The results will spell considerable opposition in parliament for Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) led by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, though they fall short of threatening the party’s ultimate control of the government.
The Muslim Brotherhood gained at least 13 seats in parliament, bringing the group's total number of seats to 47 in the second phase of the elections, spokesman Issam Al Aryan told AFP.
The group claimed it would have at least 37 candidates involved in runoffs on Saturday; it hopes to gain 100 seats when the month-long polls end on December 7.
Currently, the NDP controls 404 out of 454 seats of the People’s Assembly Parliament, while the Muslim Brothers were the largest opposition force to the NDP until now with only 15 seats.
Mohammad Habib, considered second highest ranking official in the Muslim Brotherhood, told reporters that "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." He added, "The NDP could see it was going to lose and resorted to violence and thugs against the Muslim Brotherhood. All this was aimed at preventing people from voting."
The impressive results came despite widespread violence which has marred the elections, including fierce battles between voters who at times have wielded knives, sticks and guns. The violence has so far taken the life of one victim, a driver for one of the opposition's candidates.
Egyptian newspapers carried front page photos of men carrying swords and a candidate holding a handgun.
Many have blamed the violence on the ruling NDP party, and predicted such violence in the face of success on the part of the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood.
Some 500 Brotherhood supporters were detained over the weekend.
Egyptian authorities, however, blamed the Islamic movement for the unrest. "The supporters of some candidates, the majority of which were Islamists, engaged in thuggery, voter intimidation and violence," the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )