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.

Egyptian Police Beat Women Voters (AP)

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    See Steve Coll in the New Yorker on Osama bin Laden’s high school days; apparently he was indoctrinated by a Syrian teacher who was either part of the Brotherhood or a fellow traveller.

    I’ll submit that democracy has to follow property rights and civil liberties, rather than preceding them. Take an oppressed population, let ’em vote, and you’ll get the equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood elected.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: Yep. MB is often portrayed as little more than a Muslim charity, but it is a vile organization.

    I agree that a basis in rights and, preferably, a large middle class is an ideal precursor to democratic governance. Unfortunately, dictators seldom want those things because it undermines their control.

  3. Anderson says:

    I guess it’s a case-by-case thing, JJ, but given the choice between an authoritarian dictatorship and a totalitarian theocracy, I think the U.S. benefits more from the dictatorship’s being in power. (Do I sound like Kissinger?)

    So contra Bush’s rhetoric about “spreading democracy,” I am not convinced that’s where our priorities need to be. Better to promote open markets, on the theory that the market in ideas will follow.

    Recall that England, the ur-example of liberal democracy, actually extended the vote to a tiny fraction of the populace during most of the period when the great civil liberties were being incorporated into their “constitution.”

  4. Anderson says:

    Not that I go as far as Howard Stern (reported at The Plank):

    We give Saddam Hussein a nice shave, hand him back his old uniform, and put him back in office. . . . Let him tame that f- place. We need this guy. He’s the only one who can calm everybody down. Who else is going to do that? This guy was unbelievable. . . . Sure, he had to zap a few guys on their [testicles] to get them in line, but, man, look at what he did. He was no problem. In fact, he kept the Iranians at bay. He helped keep the balance over there. He was more afraid of the Taliban than we are.

    But look at whom The Plank juxtaposes to Stern:

    If you really wanted stability in Iraq, this may sound absurd, but we could get stability in Iraq if we’d just reinstall Saddam. The choice for us has always been a Sunni Baathist secular tyranny that could keep the country together or a Shiite Islamic republic tyranny, and those are our real choices, whether we stay in ten years or two years or six months.

    That’s “Lt. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Administration and leading withdrawal advocate.”

    I suspect we’re stuck with the Shiite Islamic republic tyranny.