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Egyptian voters sneak into polling stations to avoid police

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051201/ap_on_re_mi_ea/egypt_elections Egyptian Police Prevent Voting in Villages By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD, Associated Press Writer 31
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2005
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051201/ap_on_re_mi_ea/egypt_elections

      Egyptian Police Prevent Voting in Villages

      By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD, Associated Press Writer 31
      minutes ago

      SANDOUB, Egypt - Riot police cordoned off polling
      stations Thursday in this Nile Delta village and
      several other Muslim Brotherhood and opposition
      strongholds to prevent people from voting in a final
      round of legislative elections marred by violence and
      allegations of rigging.

      In one village, men and women determined to vote
      resorted to sneaking into the polling station, putting
      up ladders to climb over back walls — out of sight of
      police barring the entrance — and slipping through
      bathroom windows to get in.

      Voting proceeded normally in some towns, but in two
      villages visited by an Associated Press reporter — one
      the hometown of a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, the
      other of an independent candidate — police were
      blocking voters. In some southern towns, voters were
      intimidated by lines of police outside stations.

      "I'm calling on his excellency, the president, to
      appoint the members of parliament because no one has
      been allowed to vote. ... It would save the money
      wasted on elections," Sameer Fikri, a would-be voter
      in the village of Sandoub, said sarcastically.

      Under U.S. pressure to bring democratic reforms,
      President
      Hosni Mubarak's government gave the banned Muslim
      Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamic movement,
      considerable leeway to campaign in the early stages of
      the three-part elections.

      But police interference has intensified in the later
      rounds, after the Brotherhood scored unexpectedly
      large gains, increasing its representation in
      parliament more than fivefold.

      Hundreds of people lined up in front of a school used
      as a polling station in Sandoub, 75 miles north of
      Cairo — the hometown of Brotherhood candidate Saber
      Zakher — but they were prevented from approaching by
      lines of riot police, armed with sticks, rifles and
      tear gas.

      A police lieutenant said "I don't know" when asked why
      both polling stations in the village had been cordoned
      off. An AP reporter was barred from entering to ask
      the judges in the polling stations.

      In the nearby town of Bussat, the smell of tear gas
      hung in the air as angry would-be voters shouted at
      police blocking the station. "There are no human
      rights here, only war and destruction," said resident
      Mustafa Mohammed. Behind the polling station, men and
      women clambered up ladders over the wall.

      An independent candidate not connected to the
      Brotherhood, Faisal Ibrahim Hassanein, is running
      against a candidate from the ruling National
      Democratic Party in the Bussat area.

      More than 10 million Egyptians were eligible to vote
      in Thursday's third and final round, where the last
      136 of parliament's 454 seats were being contested.
      Runoff elections will be held Dec. 7 in districts
      where no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the
      vote.

      In the two earlier rounds of polling last month,
      Brotherhood candidates won 76 seats, up from 15 in the
      outgoing assembly. The NDP has won 201 seats, and
      other independent or opposition candidates have taken
      25.

      The Brotherhood, which has campaigned under the slogan
      "Islam is the solution," has been banned since 1954,
      but it has long been somewhat tolerated. Its
      candidates run as independents, although their
      allegiance to the Brotherhood is known to voters.

      The first-round vote and runoff saw little violence,
      but after the Brotherhood's strong showing, there was
      a crackdown in the second round and a runoff, with
      police and government supporters blocking or
      assaulting Brotherhood loyalists from some polling
      stations. At least one person has been killed.

      The Paris-based press freedom watchdog, Reporters
      Without Borders, has condemned government-inspired
      violence and harassment, and Amnesty International has
      expressed concern over the second-round violence.

      More than 500 Brotherhood supporters were arrested
      earlier this week, police said. About 1,300
      Brotherhood loyalists are believed to have been
      arrested since polling began on Nov. 9. Many have been
      released, but hundreds are still in custody.

      On Thursday, voting was light but unhindered in the
      Nile Delta city of Zagazig. Voters walked into
      adjacent schools turned into polling stations — one
      for men, one for women — in a district where outspoken
      Muslim Brotherhood legislator Mohammed Morsi is
      seeking re-election.

      Morsi, the leader of the Brotherhood-backed candidates
      in the outgoing parliament, has been a thorn in the
      government's side for the past five years. But the NDP
      appeared not to have made a large effort to mobilize
      voters, as it did in Cairo constituencies where
      significant Brotherhood candidates ran last month.

      In Tahta, 280 miles south of Cairo, 500 police were on
      roads leading to the polling station. Voters were not
      denied access, but some said they were afraid to cross
      the police ranks.

      "I heard that the police have arrested so many people,
      especially those who vote for Brotherhood," said voter
      Ahmed Mohammed Abdel Salam, who supported the Muslim
      Brotherhood.

      In nearby Shatoura, large numbers of police were also
      outside the town's lone polling station. Police said
      they were there to prevent violence.
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