Reporting from Cairo — In an election marred by boycotts and accusations of widespread fraud, Egypt's ruling party strengthened its hold on power by winning all but a few seats in the parliament, according to unofficial results announced Tuesday.
The victory of the National Democratic Party was never in doubt, but its near-sweep of the legislature was a stunning defeat for the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition movement. The Islamist organization said it lost 62 of its 88 seats, with the remaining 26 to be decided in a runoff Sunday.
Human rights groups condemned Sunday's poll as rife with irregularities, and most Egyptians didn't bother to vote in what they considered a rigged contest. The outcome, which essentially leaves President Hosni Mubarak's party unchallenged, will do little to ease apprehension before next year's presidential poll.
"I remind President Mubarak of his vow 30 years ago to serve and protect the country, a promise he has yet to deliver on," said Manal Aboul Hassan, a Brotherhood candidate from Cairo. "Egypt law and its constitution were killed in these elections."
The outcome appeared to be part of a strategy by the ruling party to weaken opponents at a time of dissension within the NDP over selecting a presidential contender if the 82-year-old Mubarak decides not to seek a sixth term. Independent monitors reported that thugs intimidated voters and that election boxes were stuffed with NDP ballots.
Washington, which gives Cairo more than $1 billion in annual aid, characterized the poll as "worrying." The United States is "disappointed with the conduct during and leading up to" the elections, said Mike Hammer, the White House National Security Council spokesman.
Official results were to be announced Tuesday but were delayed, with no reason given. Calculations by the Brotherhood and other parties suggested that the NDP would control all but a scattering of seats in the 518-member People's Assembly, the lower house. The Brotherhood said it was considering rescinding its candidates from Sunday's runoff.
"While we concede that a number of complaints of violent incidents and minor violations occurred during the electoral process on Sunday," said Sameh Kashef, official spokesman for the High Elections Commission, "the commission is totally satisfied with the elections' outcome, and we reject any claims that the reported incidents negatively affected the electoral process."
The NDP wanted to "pave the political sphere for them to do whatever they want," Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badee said. "The regime's security forces used and protected hooligans throughout the electoral process."
Hassan is a news assistant in The Times' Cairo Bureau.