Middle East

US 'dismayed' by Egypt poll problems

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood protest in the town of Qusiya, near Assiut, in Egypt, on Monday, saying Sunday polls were rigged
Image caption The main opposition party the Muslim Brotherhood says the poll was "rigged and invalid"

The US has said it is "dismayed by reports of election-day interference and intimidation by security forces" in Egypt, which it counts as a key ally.

Voters went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament. The ruling National Democratic Party won nearly all the seats in the first round.

Opposition parties alleged widespread fraud, and the Muslim Brotherhood failed to win a single seat outright.

The government said the poll was fair. The second round is set for Sunday.

'Invalid'

After the first round, Egyptian media carried images and testimonies of mass faked ballots and thugs intimidating voters at polling stations, and protests by opposition supporters erupted across the country.

"We are disappointed by reports in the pre-election period of disruption of campaign activities of opposition candidates and arrests of their supporters," said US state department spokesman Philip Crowley.

"We are also dismayed by reports of election-day interference and intimidation by security forces," he added.

Not long after Mr Crowley's comments, official results released by the election commission showed that candidates from President Hosni Mubarak's NDP had secured 209 of the 508 seats in parliament outright.

Opposition parties won five seats and independents seven, the commission said. But none of the 130 independent candidates allied to the banned opposition Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, won a seat outright.

Run-offs will be held on Sunday to decide the remaining 287 seats.

The Brotherhood, which holds 88 seats in the current parliament, denounced the results as "invalid". Twenty-six of the group's members will stand in the run-offs, and it does not expect to win any.

'Broken promise'

The opposition New Wafd party said on the front page of its newspaper that the government had violated a "presidential promise" to hold free and fair elections.

It also called on the election commission to postpone the announcement of the official results until it had investigated claims of voting violations.

The final results of the poll could leave the NDP with an embarrassingly large majority in the new parliament, says the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo.

It could also further undermine the credibility of a process in which few Egyptians even bother to participate, our correspondent says.

Some 42 million voters were eligible to cast their ballots - but a coalition of human rights groups suggests turnout was only 10-15%.

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