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egyption elections, page-3

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    re: egyption elections mubarek is winning back PRINT-FRIENDLY VERSION EMAIL THIS STORY

    Mubarak leads poll marred by apathy
    Richard Beeston, Cairo
    September 09, 2005
    PRESIDENT Hosni Mubarak was heading for a comfortable victory in the first multi-candidate presidential elections in Egypt yesterday, but the experiment in democracy risked being compromised by intimidation, electoral abuse and widespread voter apathy.

    Official results will not be known before tomorrow but Egyptians across the political spectrum predicted a landslide for Mr Mubarak, who has run the country since 1981 and will be returned for a fifth six-year term.

    Even before the first ballot was cast, one Cairo newspaper ran a headline confidently stating that the 77-year-old would clinch 72per cent of the vote.

    But the victory will be tempered by the manner in which it was won. Egyptian plainclothes police broke up a demonstration by hundreds of supporters of the anti-Mubarak Kefaya (Enough) movement, who were urging people to boycott the election.

    Human rights groups monitoring at polling stations said their observers had been harassed and detained in incidents from Alexandria to Cairo and upper Egypt.

    Arguably the most damning indictment of the country's first test in multi-party democracy was the distinct impression that only a minority of the 32 million eligible voters bothered to take part. That was in stark contrast to Iraq's election earlier this year, when millions turned out to vote, many queueing for hours.

    At polling stations and in interviews with Egyptians it was clear, however, that Mr Mubarak enjoyed genuine support. Government employees, professionals and manual workers praised the former air force officer for maintaining peace and stability at a time when violence and chaos were sweeping the region.

    But voting often resembled another referendum on Mr Mubarak, rather than a real race between 10 candidates. None of Mr Mubarak's competitors had real political stature and only two candidates, Ayman Nour and Numan Gumaa, were expected to reach double-digit support.

    The ruling National Democratic Party has shown it is still the most powerful political institution, making it clear voters had a duty to vote for the incumbent, who has been in office as long as most Egyptians have been alive.

    Youssef al-Arabi, a young professional who was voting for Mr Nour, complained that the whole process was "a farce", but said he felt compelled to take part.

    The Times

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