Four die after riot police block Egyptian polls

Click to follow
The Independent Online

At least four people were killed yesterday as Egyptians voted in the final round of parliamentary elections that were supposed to be a break with the extensive rigging of the past.

At least four people were killed yesterday as Egyptians voted in the final round of parliamentary elections that were supposed to be a break with the extensive rigging of the past.

Clashes broke out in several areas when voters were prevented by riot police from entering polling stations.

"It's simple," said one man, eyes red from tear gas. "These elections are free and fair but only if you want to vote for the person the government wants."

Police armed with sticks and shields were out in force in constituencies where government ministers or key members of the ruling NDP party risked losing their seats.

In the first two rounds of the elections, several prominent members of President Hosni Mubarak's NDP were voted out of parliament, while at least 14 members of the Muslim Brotherhood won seats, giving the organisation a presence in parliament for the first time for more than a decade.

The elections have been an improvement on the last ones, in 1995, when at least 60 people died as the NDP swept 94 per cent of the seats, amid widespread allegation of vote rigging. This time, judges have been stationed in all polling stations in compliance with a surprise court ruling last July and, according to the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, they have "ended the legacy of stuffing ballot boxes".

But there were widespread reports of foul play. Many voters complained they had been attacked by hired thugs working either with the police or the ruling party. Several journalists had their equipment stolen.

"Things have improved," said a pro-democracy campaigner, Nigad Al-Bura'i. "But the government is not prepared to pay the price of democratic reform."

Comments