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Election shows Islamists truly are Egypt's best-organized force

 
 
Reply Tue 29 Nov, 2011 11:49 am
November 28, 2011
Election shows Islamists truly are Egypt's best-organized force
By David Enders | McClatchy Newspapers

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — It rained here on election day, but the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party was prepared: Its election workers, sometimes a half-dozen men or more at each polling station, sported matching neon yellow raincoats and baseball caps bearing the party logo.

In an election season in which it had become almost a cliche to describe the Muslim Brotherhood's party as the country's most organized political force, Monday's voting proved it. Its volunteers looked more official than the officials did. They handed out party literature. They used laptops to help people determine where they were supposed to vote. When many polling stations opened hours late, the Freedom and Justice Party volunteers were on hand, offering assurances and a needed feeling of confidence.

Mustafa Mahmoud, an accountant who was volunteering with the party outside a polling station in downtown Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, said the presence of so many party volunteers was intended to make sure the election went smoothly. If that meant a better turnout for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, that was gravy.

"It's not about which party you vote for," he said. "This is the first time an election has been secured by three groups: the army, the police and people's committees," the last a reference to his group of volunteers.

Representatives of other parties also were present near polling stations, but none in a way that seemed designed to assist the voting process, and none in such numbers.

Since Egypt's ruling military council set the parliamentary election schedule by decree two months ago, everyone had suspected that the Brotherhood, which for 30 years was officially banned and often forced to operate under the radar, would surface as the most organized political power in the country.

In the days before the elections, a constant flow of Alexandrines poured into the Muslim Brotherhood's office to register with the party. Brotherhood officials declined to provide a precise number of people who'd signed up, but they pointed to a bookshelf filled with volumes of registrations that occupied an entire wall of the office. The desks of the two men in the office who'd been given the task of registration were stacked with recently filled out forms.

The organizational skill worried candidates of liberal parties, who see the election as a contest between Egyptians who seek a secular government and those who support religious parties.

"The brotherhood has been organizing for over 30 years. There are 5,000 schools (polling stations) in Alexandria, and the Brotherhood has six people at each one," said Hazem Hilal, a candidate with the Egyptian Bloc, a group of mostly secular parties.

"This parliament will only be for one or one and a half years, and its main goal will be to write a constitution," Hilal said. "People are divided. If the constitution will not serve a (secular) country, then we have failed in this battle."

At the Freedom and Justice Party headquarters in Alexandria, spokesman Mohamed Soudan said the party's exit polls, coming in hourly, indicated "strong" numbers. He rejected the idea of a sectarian divide, and refused to confirm that the Brotherhood had managed 30,000 volunteers in Alexandria alone, though he didn't dispute the claim.

"We are all Egyptians," he said. "We are ready to work with anyone."

Soudan said the party's goals were passing a minimum wage law and reviving Egypt's flagging economy, especially the tourism sector. He echoed the sentiments of many voters that parliamentary elections would be a first step toward a speedier transition to civilian rule than the military council had envisioned even a week ago.

"They said they will hold presidential elections in June," Soudan said of the council. "We believe them, and we trust them; it was a pledge from the military council, and if they do something else, at that time there will be more talking."

(Enders is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/11/28/131543/election-shows-islamists-truly.html#ixzz1f7MDI8bI
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BumbleBeeBoogie
 
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Reply Tue 27 Mar, 2012 12:07 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Mar. 26, 2012
Muslim Brotherhood clashing with Egypt's military rulers
Mohannad Sabry | McClatchy Newspapers

CAIRO — Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has launched an all-out verbal assault on the country's military rulers in what many here fear could become a confrontation that would threaten the course of the country's political reforms, including the dissolution of its newly minted Parliament.

The Brotherhood, which has emerged as Egypt's pre-eminent political group in the year since former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power, opened the attack Saturday with a posting on its website that blamed the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for the nation's deteriorating condition and accused the council of hindering revolutionary efforts.

The statement voiced particular anger at the council for saying that it wouldn't recognize efforts by the Brotherhood-dominated Parliament to remove the council-appointed government of Prime Minister Kamal el Ganzouri. The Brotherhood accused the generals of "granting immunity to a failed government against a no-confidence vote by the Parliament."

"Is this an attempt to abort the revolution, or is it an intention to defraud the upcoming presidential elections?" the statement asked.

Among the government's failures, the Brotherhood said, was allowing Americans working for civil society organizations to leave the country even though they'd been charged with a crime, and not retrieving stolen government money stored in foreign banks.

The Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, threatened to "mobilize millions in protests to overthrow the government."

The council's head, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, denounced the Brotherhood hours later in a statement read on state television.

"Questioning the intentions and integrity of the coming presidential elections is nothing but defamation that tends to forget that the armed forces planned and executed the parliamentary elections with all transparency and fairness," Tantawi's statement said.

The confrontation between Egypt's military rulers and the Brotherhood is developing as it becomes clear that the Brotherhood is by far the dominant political force in Egypt.

In addition to controlling 47 percent of the Parliament's seats, it and the conservative Nour party hold 65 percent of the seats on the newly formed commission that's to draft a new constitution.

Just two weeks ago, the Brotherhood said it was considering nominating a candidate for the nation's presidency, something it had said previously that it wouldn't do. If it does name a candidate for the May 23 vote, few here would bet against its nominee.

"The honeymoon between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military rulers has come to an end, especially after the Brotherhood showed its real intention of taking full control of the Parliament, the constitution and the presidency, if they can," said Emad Gad, a Coptic Christian member of Parliament. Gad, a member of the constitutional commission, has said he'll boycott its work because of the Islamist dominance.

"After praising each other for months," Gad said, referring to the Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, "we are witnessing their public clashes because they both want individual control, not a democracy."

Several Egyptian politicians said dissolution of Parliament was one possible outcome of the clash, with the military seeking such a move through the courts.

With both sides threatening to summon millions of supporters to the streets, there's a possibility of a dangerous escalation, said Mohamed Farahat, a specialist in Islamist movements at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

He said the two sides probably would hold "a behind-the-scenes dialogue and resolve their differences or gear up and confront each other."

He said a court filing by political figures seeking the dissolution of the Parliament was particularly threatening, because the country's most powerful judges felt insulted by the Brotherhood's statement, which accused them of doing the military's bidding.

An angry verdict could dissolve the Parliament in a matter of days, he said.

"If the Parliament is dissolved," Farahat said, "we will be back to what we demanded months ago: a president, a Parliament and then a constitution."

(Sabry is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Apr, 2012 09:56 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Apr. 14, 2012
Egypt election officials bar 3 top candidates from presidential race
Hannah Allam and Mohannad Sabry | McClatchy Newspapers

CAIRO — In a move that could rechart the course of Egypt's landmark presidential polls, the election commission late Saturday barred the top three candidates from the race for failing to meet eligibility criteria.

The former spy chief Omar Suleiman, the Muslim Brotherhood financier Khairat el Shater and the ultraconservative cleric Hazem Salah Abu Ismail are among 10 disqualified candidates, the commission announced via state media. The men have 48 hours to appeal the decision; their supporters already are vowing mass demonstrations in protest.

According to the state-backed Al-Ahram newspaper, the High Elections Commission cited these reasons for the invalidations: a majority of Suleiman's requisite endorsement signatories couldn't be verified or had signed for other candidates, Shater's pardon for an old money-laundering conviction didn't cover his related ban from political life, and Foreign Ministry documents proved that Abu Ismail's mother was a naturalized American. Candidates are required to have two Egyptian parents.

"We will report all the aforementioned violations to the prosecutor in order to take legal action," the commission said in a statement.

Just six weeks from the opening of the presidential polls, the race is dogged by conspiracy theories, court challenges, huge demonstrations, accusations of fraud and even an Egyptian-style birther controversy. The military council is expected to meet with political leaders Sunday to discuss the crisis.

The well-known blogger and revolutionary Mahmoud Salem, better known as Sandmonkey, compared the presidential race to an episode of the fantasy-adventure TV show "Lost" in a message on Twitter: "u don't fully understand what's going on at the time, but u are entertained & enjoying the twists."

The ruling reinvigorates the candidacies of former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, the reform-minded Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Futouh, and the Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who were all eclipsed when the race turned into a three-way battle of the now-excluded frontrunners.

The Brotherhood had anticipated this outcome and registered an alternative candidate, Mohamed Mursi, leader of its spinoff Freedom and Justice Party. Even so, the group would appeal the decision to exclude Shater, said Abdelmenem Abdelmaksoud, an attorney for the Brotherhood.

In an online statement, the Suleiman campaign, citing a senior consultant, said he would be contesting the decision and gathering the necessary documents to meet the criteria within the 48-hour appeal period.

Abu Ismail, speaking by telephone late Saturday in an interview with the Islamist cable channel Hikma, also said he would appeal the decision first thing Sunday morning. He also vowed retaliation against Egypt's military rulers.

"I know of bribery cases involving top officials and I will have to expose them," Abu Ismail warned in the interview.

In a further twist, another of the candidates disqualified under the ruling — the prominent attorney Mortada Mansour — was declared a fugitive. Egyptian authorities, via state media, said he'd gone on the run to escape charges holding him responsibility for the so-called Battle of the Camels, one of the most violent of the 18 days of revolt that brought down Hosni Mubarak's regime in February 2011.

Mansour was barred from the race because his internally divided party had fielded a second candidate in violation of election rules, according to the election commission.

Also banned Saturday was liberal former political prisoner Ayman Nour, who ran afoul of the old regime and ended up in prison after daring to challenge Mubarak in a presidential race. Like Shater, according to state media, Nour was disqualified because his old Mubarak-era conviction stripped him of his political rights.

Nour said he would appeal.

"This decision targets specific personalities and is politically motivated," he said in a statement.

Supporters of the barred candidates were galvanized by their fury over the decision — they immediately set about planning demonstrations and flooding social networking sites with harsh criticism of the transitional authorities.

Shater, the Brotherhood candidate, reassured his supporters in a message in Arabic on his official Twitter account: "We will not give up on freedom. The case is not the candidacy of this or that, it's about guaranteeing freedoms and the continuation of the revolution."

(Sabry is a special correspondent.)
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