The Muslim Brotherhood built its strength in Egypt's parliament this weekend, winning 29 more seats in elections despite restrictions on voting and arrests of its supporters, official results showed on Sunday.
The Higher Election Committee said final results showed 115 candidates won seats in Saturday's run-offs from round two of the second phase of the polling: 75 for the ruling National Democratic Party; 38 for independents; and two for the New Wafd opposition party. Judges stopped the elections in three constituencies for irregularities.
Senior Brotherhood official Ali Abdel-Fattah said on Sunday that 29 of the winning independents were members of the group. Polling took place in the second city of Alexandria and other Islamist strongholds in the Nile Delta.
The Islamist group has now won 76 seats - more than five times the number it held in the outgoing chamber. About a third of Parliament's 444 elected places have still to be decided.
The voting also confirmed the demise of the secular opposition, with the defeat of the former leader of the Marxist Tagammu Party, Khaled Mohieddine - one of the last two surviving Free Officers who led the 1952 revolution.
On Saturday, Egypt's judges, supervising the polling process, accused the government of trying to prevent voters from casting their ballots and seeking to forge results.
"Polling stations were sealed off and voters were prevented from casting their ballots. Police refused to obey the orders of the polling station officials who demanded that people be allowed to vote," the judges' syndicate said in a statement.
It also accused the Interior Ministry of modifying electoral registers in a bid to prevent Egyptians from voting and called on its members to demand re-runs where needed.
In reaction, the pro-government Supreme Judicial Council demanded the judges' prosecution for "interfering in politics."
Judges should "refrain from appearing on satellite channels commenting on political elections and claiming the process to be fraud" or face investigation, a council statement said.
Now where have I heard that before?
And who is the Muslim Brotherhood? Wiki says:
Sounds like just the thing to give the neocons a case of the hives.
Founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna the Egyptian Brotherhood quickly became a large organisation and a major political opposition group, campaigning against political and social injustice and British imperial rule, and promoting a conception of Islam that attempted to restore broken links between tradition and modernity. By the end of the 1940s, it is thought to have had as many as a million members.
With some exceptions, the Brotherhood's leaders and members have demonstrated a commitment to a non-violent, reformist approach to Islamism.
The Brotherhood has been an illegal organization, tolerated to varying degrees, since 1954; it is still periodically subjected to mass arrests and torture. It remains Egypt's most popular opposition group, and continues to call for a more open and democratic political system in Egypt.
Oh, and let's keep in mind the stirring words of Condi Rice:
"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither...Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."
So we'll be standing behind the Brotherhood and against the oppressive Mubarek regime, right?
Well, uh.... no.
The United States inadvertently helped Egypt's Islamists make strong electoral gains this month and is now rethinking the wisdom of pressing rapid democratic change in a major Arab country, analysts said on Tuesday.
The Muslim Brotherhood, making the most of the more open atmosphere which Washington has promoted, has already tripled its strength in parliament to 47 of the 444 elected seats, with more than half the seats yet to be decided.
The secular opposition parties which Washington favored have performed poorly, picking up only a handful of seats — way short of the five percent threshold they would need if they want to field a candidate in presidential elections.
Although the Brotherhood has no chance of breaking the government's control over parliament, this outcome has given the Bush administration pause and strengthened the hand of those in Washington who value stability over democracy, the analysts say.
"The Americans have reassessed the situation and come to the conclusion that fast and vigorous democratization in Egypt is impossible and will work in an undesirable way," said Mohamed el-Sayed Said, a political analyst at a Cairo think-tank.
I guess it's back to the pursuit of stability, eh, Condi?