The leading opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, fared poorly in the final round of Egypt's parliamentary elections, winning no seats outright in polling blighted by violence and a denial of access to voting stations, government and Brotherhood officials said Friday. Partial results from Thursday's polling showed the ruling National Democratic Party had won four seats and the Brotherhood none, said Interior Ministry officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.
However, 34 Brotherhood candidates had won a place in next Wednesday's run-off elections to decide those seats where nobody got more than half the vote, the officials said.
The Interior Ministry has not released any official results from Thursday's polling, where voters had to elect 136 representatives from nine provinces in the third and last round of voting for the 454-seat parliament.
But both ministry officials and Brotherhood spokesman Abdel Gelil el-Sharnoubi said the group's candidates had not won any seats outright, although the results were still being finalized in most of the constituencies. The ministry officials said that independent candidates won two seats and the secular opposition Wafd Party won one.
Thursday was the first time in the staggered elections that began Nov. 9 where Brotherhood candidates failed to win a single seat without going to run-offs.
It was also the day when police clashes with voters and the police's blockading of polling stations appeared to be greater than before. One person was shot dead when police opened fire on a crowd of voters pushing to enter a polling station in the Nile Delta province of Kafr el-Sheik.
Some Egyptian newspapers criticized the government Friday for the police conduct. The independent El-Masri el-Yom ran the banner headline "Barring voters is the solution," making a play on the Brotherhood's campaign slogan of "Islam is the solution."
The Wafd paper, which supports the opposition party of the same name, ran the sarcastic headline ""Voting for National Party ... Only," referring to the ruling party. Its editorial said that after the irregularities in last month's stages of the election, it had expected Thursday's polling to be cleaner. "But it was more violent.
There were more assaults from all sides. The weapon of money has become less evident, but clubs, knives, and machettes remain to control the scene," wrote Abbas al-Tarabily.
The pro-government Al-Ahram ran the headline: "Violent acts in Kafr el-Sheik, Dakahlia and Sharqiya mars elections." Its report said the police forces were attacked as they tried to maintain order at polling stations.
The vote, considered a key test of President Hosni Mubarak's openness to reform _ has turned into a battle between the government and its top rival, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood won 76 seats in the first two rounds, increasing its presence in parliament five-fold.
In the town of Balteem, Kafr el-Sheik, voters shoved lines of riot police blocking them from the polls. Police tried to disperse the crowd with nightsticks and tear gas, bringing volleys of stones from the voters. Finally, the police opened fire, killing one man and wounding 60 people, said Mohammed el-Ashqar, a campaign worker for a leftist Nasserite opposition candidate. It was the second death in violence at the polls since voting began in early November. The Interior Ministry confirmed Thursday's death, and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the clashes in Kafr el-Sheik, reports the AP. I.L.
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