When Egypt’s Lower House convened on January 23, Islamists held 360 out of its 498 seats, or 72 percent. This astounding figure, however, reflects less the country’s public opinion than it does a ploy by the ruling military leadership to remain in power.
In a recent article (“Egypt’s Sham Election,” December 6) we argued that just as Anwar El-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak in the past “tactically empowered Islamists as a foil to gain Western support, arms, and money,” so do Mohamed Tantawi and his Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) “still play this tired old game.”
The Free Egyptians Party, Egypt’s leading classic-liberal political party, announced on January 10 that it had filed more than 500 complaints about Lower House elections “but no legal action was taken” in response. The party pulled out of forthcoming Upper House elections because “violators are awarded with electoral gains and those abiding by the laws are punished” and called for their cancellation.
Mohamed ElBaradei, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) withdrew his candidacy for president on January 14 because of his perception of rigged elections: “My conscience,” he announced, “does not permit me to run for the presidency or any other official position unless it is within a real democratic system.”
Six parliamentary candidates filed official complaints against a range of officials and demanded that the elections be annulled and redone, reports the newspaper El-Badil in its January 10 edition. One of the candidates, a Wafd Party candidate named Ibrahim Kamel, explained how he acquired government documents indicating that fewer than 40 million Egyptians were eligible to vote, while the current elections included 52 million voters, implying 12 million fraudulent ballots. This increase was achieved, he said, by taking the names and identification numbers of legitimate voters and duplicating them between two and 32 times in other electoral precincts.
Mamdouh Hamza, head of the Egyptian National Council, an NGO, confirmed this tampering to El-Badil, dubbing it “the biggest crime of fraud in Egyptian history.” He demanded that the Lower House elections be redone from scratch.
In contrast, the victorious Islamists, who despise democracy, made little effort to conceal their electoral success through fraud. Some of them went so far as proudly and unapologetically to assert that it’s their Islamic duty to be dishonest. Tal’at Zahran, a leading Salafi, called the democratic system “infidel,” “criminal,” and “out of the Elders of Zion.” He cynically observed that “it is our duty to forge elections; God will reward us for this.”