U.S. criticises Egypt over election restrictions

The United States criticised Egyptian authorities for disqualifying opposition candidates from this week's local elections and said it was pressing Cairo to open up the political system.

U.S. criticises Egypt over election restrictions

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) swept the board in Tuesday's council elections, winning up to 100 percent of the seats in some areas.

But turnout was very low. The main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, withdrew from the elections because the authorities excluded all but 20 of more than 7,000 Brotherhood members who wanted to stand.

"We have been troubled by the reports of harassment, detainment and arrests of opposition candidates and campaign workers in the lead-up to the elections, as well as the allegations that large numbers of opposition candidates were prevented from registering," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

"We believe that the Egyptian people deserve the opportunity to peacefully express their views by means of the ballot box.

"They should not only be able to vote without fear of intimidation, but should also be able to choose freely from a variety of candidates.

"We continue to urge the Egyptian government to take tangible steps towards greater democracy, freedom, and political openness," Perino said in a statement.

A non-governmental organisation which monitored the voting said no more than 1 percent of registered voters took part in the elections, in which the NDP won about 88 percent of the seats by default because there was no opposition.

Any turnout figure above 1 percent would have come about through the practice of stuffing ballot boxes with unused ballots, either by NDP agents or by the civil servants meant to be supervising, said Democracy Status Watch.

Authorities have given higher turnout rates, including 10 and 30 percent, for particular areas.

Visitors to polling stations found transparent ballot boxes with just a handful of ballot papers at the bottom.

A complete tally of seats won by the ruling party was not available but state newspapers gave details for some provinces.

In the Nile Delta province of Menoufia, the NDP took all 5,000 seats on all 172 councils, the state newspaper al-Ahram reported.

In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the NDP won 90 percent of the seats. The remaining 10 percent was shared between the liberal Wafd Party, the leftist Tagammu Party and two other parties, the newspaper said.

Last Mod: 10 Nisan 2008, 17:03
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