Egyptian Police Rigging Elections, Beating Voters
Egyptian police are denying access to polling places in areas where the opposition party is strong, including an ugly incident where 25 women trying to vote were beaten.
Police beat back women voters with sticks when they tried to enter a cordoned-off polling station in an opposition stronghold in the Nile Delta on Wednesday, the final day of Egypt’s staggered legislative elections.
The clashes were the latest violence in a three-stage election that has been marred by state interference.
Police blocked access to a polling station in the city of Zagazig’s Nasiriyah district, where a candidate supported by the Muslim Brotherhood was favored to win. The Brotherhood is the country’s largest opposition group.
About 25 women managed to push through the police line, prompting more officers to rush at them to hold them back. Some officers beat the women with sticks while others shoved them back.
“Nobody is entering here,” a police officer bellowed to the crowd, which continued to push the phalanx of officers. The polling station doors were closed.
While voting was normal in other areas Wednesday, the scene in Zagazig was typical of the confrontations that have occurred with increasingly regularity during the past four weeks of voting as the Brotherhood has won far more support than pundits expected.
The government has responded by arresting hundreds of Brotherhood campaign workers and blockading polling stations in districts where the Islamic movement is strong. The Brotherhood has 35 candidates standing in Wednesday’s runoffs for the remaining 127 of the 444 elected seats in parliament.
While they have made remarkable progress in their first semi-legitimate election, Egypt has a long way to go before it becomes a “democracy.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, the founder of the modern Islamist movement, presents special problems given their association with al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Their appeal is not surprising, though, considering they are one of the few “parties” that have any institutional identity in a country that has long pretended to have elections but has not allowed competitive parties.