Middle East News
Egyptian run-off sees fresh fraud charges (2nd Lead)
Dec 5, 2010, 16:13 GMT
Cairo - Egyptians voted Sunday in a run-off election for parliament marked by a low turn-out, fresh allegations of fraud and a boycott by the opposition.
In the second round, more than half of the lower-house, or some 283 seats, was still up for grabs. About 29 million people from the relevant constituencies being decided are eligible to vote.
The National Council for Human Rights, a quasi-governmental body, reported mid-afternoon that dozens of complaints had been filed by voters saying they were turned away at some polling stations.
Other complaints focused on charges of vote buying and vote rigging, the council said in a statement.
The polls, which opened at 8 am (0600 GMT), are expected to close at 7 pm (1900 GMT).
Charges of voter intimidation and ballot box stuffing in favour of the National Democratic Party (NDP) were also made during and after last Sunday's first round.
President Hosny Mubarak's NDP won over 95 per cent of seats settled in the first round, securing at least 209 members in the lower house. While victory was expected for the party, the scale was a surprise.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the country's main opposition bloc, was boycotting the run-off, after failing to secure a single seat in the first round. The group had 88 seats in the outgoing People's Assembly, elected in 2005.
'There is no fraud. People claiming that there was fraud are those who were wiped out last week,' said Hassan al-Tounsi, a candidate of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), who has been a member of parliament for 20 years.
Al-Tounsi, a businessman by profession, admits there was bullying at polling stations last Sunday, but said it would not recur.
'But this time security is really exemplary,' he told the German Press Agency dpa from a polling station in Cairo.
Saneya Mustafa, one of the few voters who showed up at that polling station, said she was voting for al-Tounsi.
'He is always available in his office to help us,' said Mustafa, an illiterate mother of four. She said al-Tounsi helped her financially with her son's funeral, and that he contributes money to young people in the area getting married.
An independent candidate's monitor at a polling station in Cairo, said he saw vote rigging last week in the first round.
'Here at the polling station, there is no fraud. But after we closed the boxes and took them to where they are counted, those responsible changed numbers around in favour of the NDP candidate,' the monitor said, requesting anonymity due the sensitivity around the charges.
Videos circulated on the internet showed ballot box stuffing, in what opposition groups said was evidence of their fraud charges, though the authenticity of the footage could not be proven.
The second round featured mostly candidates from the NDP - in certain instances facing off against each other - alongside some independents and members of minor parties.
Although the liberal Wafd party and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood pulled out of the run-off, their candidates were still registered on the ballots.
Some opposition figures, including former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, called for a boycott of the polls months earlier, though the Brotherhood refused to join at the time.
'No, we don't have any regrets,' said Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsood, the Brotherhood lawyer, when asked if he should have boycotted the first round. 'It is the NDP who should regret what they did.'
Final results from the second round were expected by Wednesday, the country's election commission said.
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