Egypt pro­test­ers say new par­lia­ment is ‘void’

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

CAIRO: Hun­dreds of Egyp­tian op­po­si­tion ac­tivists protested over what they said were bo­gus elec­tions that had pro­duced an il­le­git­i­mate par­lia­ment, even as the pres­i­dent hailed the vote as a "mile­stone" for democ­racy.

The protest took place out­side the Supreme Court in down­town Cairo shortly af­ter Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak con­grat­u­lated the rul­ing party for its sweep­ing vic­tory on live tele­vi­sion. The op­po­si­tion, as well as in­ter­na­tional rights ac­tivists, have con­demned the elec­tions for wide­spread rig­ging and called for the re­sults to be an­nulled. The coun­try's two largest op­po­si­tion groups pulled out af­ter the first round.

Mubarak ac­knowl­edged there had been vi­o­lence and vote-buy­ing in the elec­tion which took place over two rounds on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, but he de­scribed the re­sults as law­ful and told Egyp­tians to ex­pect the new body to ad­vance democ­racy.

But the pro­test­ers at the rally chal­lenged the le­git­i­macy of the par­lia­ment, which will holds its first ses­sion Mon­day.

"Mubarak's par­lia­ment is void," ac­tivists shouted. A num­ber of op­po­si­tion can­di­dates that lost in the elec­tions an­nounced they would form a par­al­lel par­lia­ment.

Egypt's largest op­po­si­tion group, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, and the coun­try's old­est po­lit­i­cal party, the Wafd, pulled out be­fore the sec­ond round of vot­ing, cit­ing wide­spread vote rig­ging.

It was an un­usual move. The last time the op­po­si­tion boy­cotted an elec­tion was 20 years ago in 1990, over Egypt's sup­port for the U.S. in the first Gulf war.

"We can't take this any­more. It makes no sense to deal with a regime that doesn't want pol­i­tics," said Mo­hammed Sherdi, a Wafd can­di­date who pulled out be­fore the sec­ond round. "The pub­lic now must move." The pres­ence of the lib­eral Wafd at the demon­stra­tion was also un­usual as the party has pre­ferred to work with the govern­ment rather than ac­tively op­pose it.

"The op­po­si­tion were all vic­tims," said Diaa Rash­wan, who ran for a seat in south­ern Egypt on a left­ist party ticket.

But Mubarak said in his speech that the op­po­si­tion had wasted their time and en­ergy by boy­cotting the elec­tions af­ter ini­tially par­tic­i­pat­ing.

He as­cribed his party's suc­cess to good or­ga­ni­za­tion and prepa­ra­tions and urged the op­po­si­tion to study the lessons learned. "With its neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive (as­pects) the elec­tion was a mile­stone," he said.

The 82-year-old Mubarak, who re­cently had gall blad­der surgery, is be­lieved to be groom­ing his son Ga­mal to suc­ceed him, but there is wide­spread pub­lic op­po­si­tion and he could yet run him­self for an­other six year term in next year's pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Fol­low­ing the elec­tions, op­po­si­tion lead­ers have said they will try to chan­nel the wide­spread ou­trage over the rig­ging into a united anti-govern­ment front.

Lead­ing Egyp­tian democ­racy ad­vo­cate Mohamed ElBa­radei said Satur­day that the di­vided op­po­si­tion groups do not cur­rently pose a se­ri­ous enough chal­lenge to Mubarak's rul­ing party, but the bla­tant vote rig­ging had made the peo­ple an­gry and de­prived the regime of any le­git­i­macy.

"These are peo­ple that don't want to change and that is not a good sign be­cause a regime that is com­pletely block­ing all chan­nels of peace­ful change is a regime that is re­ally risk­ing blood­shed," he said. ElBa­radei said he is push­ing to unify the coun­try's op­po­si­tion groups to build enough num­bers for pro-re­form protests. -Ap

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