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Egypt’s Ruling Party Sweeps First Round of Election

Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party swept the first round of parliamentary elections while its main Islamist rival failed to win a single seat, the national elections commission said.

The party of President Hosni Mubarak won 209 of the 221 seats decided in the voting on Nov. 28, official results on the website of the electoral commission showed. Runoffs for the remainder of the seats in the 508-member assembly will be held Dec. 5. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest opposition group, said its candidates didn’t win any seats outright.

“Egyptian law and its constitution were killed in these elections,” Manal Abul Hassan, a Brotherhood candidate, said in a statement today. The group lost 62 of the 88 seats it held in the outgoing parliament and was considering whether to withdraw from the runoffs, according to the statement posted on the Brotherhood’s website.

The Islamist group has accused the NDP of rigging the vote, a charge the ruling party denies. The Obama administration was “disappointed” by “the numerous reported irregularities at the polls,” National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said yesterday. The results tighten the ruling party’s grip on power in Egypt, a U.S. ally, as it prepares for next year’s presidential vote, which may see the first change in leadership in three decades.

“We are prepared to answer any criticisms, internal or external, about the election,” Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told reporters in Cairo today. Egypt’s government invalidated results from 1,053 ballot boxes due to charges of vote-rigging, Sameh El Kashef, spokesman for the commission, said at a press conference late yesterday.

Succession Questions

Mubarak, in power since 1981, hasn’t announced whether he will run for another six-year term. Opposition groups, including the Brotherhood, have said that the president is grooming his son Gamal, a senior NDP official, to succeed him. Both men deny this.

The lack of a designated successor to Mubarak, 82, has fueled concern that a succession crisis may lead to political unrest. That could endanger foreign investment needed to create jobs and accelerate growth in the most populous Arab country. When the president underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder in March, investors dumped Egyptian shares and the benchmark EGX30 index lost 6.7 percent in a week.

The election saw a number of violations including vote- rigging, violence and obstruction of opposition candidates, a coalition of Egyptian human rights groups said yesterday. The ruling NDP fielded more than 800 candidates for parliamentary seats.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of “numerous” violations during the vote. These included authorities detaining journalists and preventing the staff of opposition candidates from entering 30 polling stations the group visited, it said in a statement distributed to reporters Nov. 29 in Cairo.

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