Egyptian voters sneak into polling stations to avoid police
Egyptian Police Prevent Voting in Villages
By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD, Associated Press Writer 31
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,
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
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
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
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
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
In nearby Shatoura, large numbers of police were also
outside the town's lone polling station. Police said
they were there to prevent violence.