Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More about the parliamentary elections:

-- The ICEM has issued another report on the latest round of elections again shining light on elections abuses. The committee writes, "As a result of the new instructions from the Minister of the Interior, ICEM did in fact witness a stronger security presence at the polling sites. However, rather than having the desirable effect of facilitating the voting process, it was instead utilized to advantage the NDP. This occurred at a large number of the polling stations in districts where Muslim Brotherhood candidates were running."

-- The New York Times assesses the performance of the Muslim Brotherhood in the election, saying the group's jump to at least 75 seats (which will make it by far the largest opposition group in the parliament, giving it almost one-fourth of the seats) was a result of a desire of change, not an upsurge in religious feeling. The Times quotes "We voted for many people over the years, and they did nothing for us," said Muhammad Lotfi, 31, a driver who said he was tired of having to constantly bribe the local traffic police in order to avoid troubles. "Now, we want the Brotherhood. Maybe they will do something for the people, for the youth. The water here is not even drinkable."

-- Agence France Press questions whether the Muslim Brothers could ever take power in Egypt. The report notes that both MB leaders and political analysts are careful to avoid any comparison with Algeria, where an Islamist victory in elections led to a military takeover and years of violence.

-- Meanwhile The London-based Ash Sharq Al Awsat asks whether the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood "may be the beginning of an Iranian-style Ayatollah era in Egypt".

My own feeling is that the election underscored the dual nature of Egyptian politics. While Amnesty International has long raised concerns about human rights abuses, we have also recognized and supported the many voices both within the government and outside of it that calls for reform and democracy and human rights. What we saw with the "unleashing" of the security forces at election time was the security side of the government flexing its muscle. But before we assume that this is Mubarak politics as usual, let's recognize that movement is happening here, a movement from which, if supported, there will be no turning back. The reformers have new tools to work with, and the security forces may find their usual techniques of repression are becoming less and less effective.

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