Middle East

Videos cast cloud over Egypt vote

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Media captionMobile phone footage has emerged which allegedly shows ballot boxes being destroyed and votes being illegally cast

Egypt's ruling party has claimed a crushing victory in last Sunday's parliamentary election. But as the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo reports, video footage taken on mobile phones appears to show a deeply flawed voting process.

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has condemned as fabricated mobile phone footage which appears to back up allegations of serious fraud in the Egyptian parliamentary election.

One of the videos has two men in what looks like a polling station filling in a series of ballot papers. Others take the ballots away, presumably to put in a ballot box. Like all such videos it is impossible to verify, but the setting looks realistic, and it certainly does not look staged.

What is particularly shocking is how everyone involved looks to be so familiar with the procedure. No-one is giving any instructions. Everyone knows what to do.

The footage also tallies with the complaints of a number of eyewitnesses who said they arrived early at polling stations to find the ballot boxes already stuffed full.

Other footage posted on the internet shows angry voters attacking a polling station. They seize several ballot boxes, throw them over the balcony and burn the voting slips. Again, this tallies with the reports of eyewitnesses, and also some official reports of ballot boxes being destroyed by angry crowds.

'Caught in the middle'

The chairman of Egypt's Higher Election Commission, Abd-al-Aziz Umar, has acknowledged that what he called some "violations" took place during the voting on Sunday. However, he said that such incidents did not affect the integrity of the polls.

In comments on the footage posted on the internet, he said: "The commission did not receive these pictures in the form of complaints from anyone, and it has no information about the source of these pictures and how they were taken and their authenticity."

His spokesman also criticised the media reporting of these allegations.

However, human rights group Amnesty International drew different conclusions from other mobile phone footage circulating on the internet.

In a statement, the organisation said: "Amnesty is concerned that Egyptians turning out to vote were subjected to violence and intimidation during election day, including beatings by security forces, and other violence as revealed by mobile phone footage posted on the internet.

"Footage also appears to show voters caught in the middle of violent clashes between supporters of rival candidates mostly belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling NDP."

Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch, who was in Egypt for the election, concluded that: "Unfortunately the repeated exclusion of opposition representatives and independent monitors from polling stations, along with reports of violence and fraud suggest that citizens were not able to partake in free elections."

For many Egyptians, the result itself is the strongest evidence that something was not quite right.

The opposition Muslim Brotherhood went from a position of holding 88 seats in the outgoing parliament, to winning precisely zero in the first round of voting.

They still have about 20 candidates in the running for the second round this Sunday. It could be another lively day.

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