Violence Reported Against Egypt Voters

Published November 20, 2005

| Associated Press

Widespread violence marred the second round of Egypt's parliamentary vote Sunday, with the opposition Muslim Brotherhood reporting that one of its voters was shot and killed in Alexandria and witnesses saying scores were injured.

The clashes between Brotherhood and ruling party supporters were in sharp contrast with the Nov. 9 first round of voting, which passed in relative peace and saw the banned Brotherhood double its representation in parliament.

There are 1,706 candidates competing in 72 constituencies in this round of elections. The Brotherhood was expected to win more seats Sunday and in the Dec. 1 third round.

The Brotherhood spokesman in Alexandria, Ali Abdel Fattah, said "thugs" opened fire on the group's backers at a downtown polling station, killing one man and wounding several other people. The report could not immediately be verified with Egyptian authorities, but the Sawasya Center for Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination confirmed the death and identified the victim as Ali Mohammed Khalil Ibrahim.

In the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, witnesses said a Brotherhood candidate's brother was shot and wounded by the cousin of a ruling National Democratic Party candidate. The NDP, the party of President Hosni Mubarak, held an 80 percent majority heading into the three-stage vote.

Ismailia Health Department Director Abdel-Munim el-Sharqawi said four other people were hospitalized after clashes between Brotherhood and NDP supporters. One was in critical condition after being hit on the head with a bottle.

Other witnesses said they saw intelligence officers kicking and beating a female Brotherhood supporter after she protested not being allowed to vote.

In Damanhur, about 85 miles north of Cairo, as many as 40 people were wounded when Brotherhood supporters clashed with NDP backers who tried to pull down and burn Brotherhood campaign banners. Ehab Nassar, a doctor at the Damanhur hospital, said one person was in critical condition after being hit in the head with a sword.

A fierce campaign had been waged in the city between Brotherhood candidate Gamal Hishmat and NDP candidate Mustafa el-Fiqqi, a member of the outgoing People's Assembly and close associate of Mubarak's son and possible successor, Gamal.

Broken bottles, stones and pieces of metal littered the area after police broke up the fighting.

"This reminds me of the clashes we see on television between the Palestinians and the Israelis," said Brotherhood supporter Salwa Salah Tawfik, 31.

As polling places opened Sunday, there were complaints of irregularities.

In Port Said, at the Mediterranean end of the Suez Canal, Mustafa Saber, a poll monitor from the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, said he was prevented from entering the polling station by police who were only allowing NDP supporters in.

While prohibited from formally becoming a political party, the Brotherhood fields candidates as nominal independents. The candidates' sympathies for the banned organization, however, are widely known to the electorate.

The Brotherhood calls for implementing Islamic law but is vague about what that means. It advocates the veil for women and campaigns against perceived immorality in the media. But the group insists it represents a more moderate face of Islam than that followed in deeply conservative Saudi Arabia.

The government generally tolerates the group, which renounced violence in the 1970s, but hundreds of members have been detained in recent months amid increased protests against Mubarak, Egypt's leader for 24 years.

The United States has urged Mubarak, its steadfast ally in the Middle East, to allow greater democracy. But U.S. officials also are eyeing the Brotherhood with concern.

The NDP garnered 112 seats in the first round of elections. In all, 454 seats in the parliament are up for election in the three-stage process.

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