Muslim Brotherhood Claims Victory In Egyptian Election

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CAIRO — The Muslim Brotherhood’s political party said Wednesday it had won a majority of the seats up for grabs in Egypt’s run-off elections, which would give it at least 40 percent of the seats in parliament decided thus far.

The Freedom and Justice Party said in a statement that it won 36 of the 56 seats awarded to individual candidates in voting which concluded on Tuesday.

The Islamist group already won almost 37 percent of the vote in earlier polling, which awarded seats according to party lists.

The Brotherhood’s political arm and other Islamist blocs have so far dominated the first election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February, with liberal parties trailing.

The ultraconservative Al-Nour Party has come in second after the Muslim Brotherhood, winning nearly a quarter of the ballots cast in the late November vote for party lists.

Al-Nour, comprised of followers of the Islamic Salafi trend, adheres to strict religious observance and believes Islamic laws, or Shariah, should be the basis of the Egyptian state.

Al-Nour party spokesman Yousseri Hamed told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his group won at least five additional seats in runoffs. Votes are still being counted.

Some Islamists, however, faced a tough battle in Cairo. Candidate Mostafa al-Naggar of the newly-formed liberal Justice Party said he won against a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in the run-off vote.

The Brotherhood meanwhile said that one of their candidates had beaten a particularly controversial Al-Nour candidate, Abdel-Monem el-Shahat, in the northern coastal city of Alexandria.

El-Shahat caused a stir during the run-up to the vote by saying the novels of Egypt’s Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, read widely in Egyptian schools, are “all prostitution.”

Both the Muslim Brotherhood and various Salafi groups have long offered social and medical services to millions of impoverished Egyptians, winning them political backing. Most of the parties formed after the downfall of Mubarak lack name recognition and thus have less clout, especially in rural areas.

The voting for the 498-member elected parliament is staggered over three stages, with two-thirds of the country yet to cast ballots.

Meanwhile, an interim government led by a prime minister appointed by the military is scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday. It will likely only govern Egypt until elections for both houses of parliament conclude in March.

Kamal el-Ganzouri was named to the premiership last month after the previous interim administration resigned in the wake of violent clashes between protesters and police.

His appointment was supposed to meet public demand for a more empowered government, which could deal with lawlessness and instability, social unrest and a battered economy.

However, military rulers will retain power over the armed forces and the judiciary.

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