Egyptians vote in run-off after opposition quits
CAIRO: Egyptians voted Sunday in a run-off parliamentary election which President Hosni Mubarak's party will win almost unchallenged after the two biggest opposition groups quit a contest they said was rigged.
The National Democratic Party (NDP), which has never lost a vote, is sure of a crushing victory after the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal Wafd party withdrew. The fiercest run-off races are where NDP candidates are pitted against each other.
The Brotherhood, the biggest opposition group with a fifth of seats in the outgoing parliament, won no seats in the first round. Wafd won two. Egyptian monitors cited ballot box stuffing, voter intimidation by hired thugs and other abuses.
"I am boycotting these elections. They are a sham, anyone can see that," said Mansour Abdel-Fattah, 22, a Brotherhood supporter from the Delta city of Mansoura.
"I applaud the Brotherhood's decision to boycott, of course, Wafd as well," Abdel-Fattah said in Cairo. He said he would not travel home to vote, as he did in the first round.
Officials said voting on November 28 was fair, and any complaints were being checked but did not undermine the vote.
Analysts said the government wanted to shove Islamist and other critics out of the assembly to deny them a platform before the 2011 presidential election. That looming vote is fuelling debate about how much longer Mubarak, 82, can stay in power.
"The first round showed the government was not going to give any space to the opposition. The new people's assembly is not for the people. It is simply another NDP committee with a single purpose: securing presidential succession in the 2011 vote," Wafd party member Ashraf Balbaa told Reuters.
Officials suggest Mubarak, whose health has been under close scrutiny since gallbladder surgery in March, will extend his three-decade rule by seeking another sixyear term, if he can.
If not, many Egyptians say his son will run. But analysts question whether Gamal, 46, has the popularity among the masses, many in dire poverty, or military support to take over. -Afp
PARIS: France's Defence and Veterans Minister Alain Juppe (C) reviews the troops as he participates, on December 5, 2010. -Ap