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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Egyptian elections coming up

The Egyptian regime is having major problems trying to keep the elections legal, and yet marginalizing the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt has made the Muslim Brotherhood's slogan, "Islam is the Solution", illegal for use on campaign posters.

Even though the MB is not allowed to run, they back independent candidates who subscribe to their positions.

From The Canadian Press:
Egyptian security detained 65 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday while they were hanging election posters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria for next month's parliamentary vote, police said.

The arrests are the latest in the government's crackdown on the popular Islamist group, the strongest opposition to Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party.

Muslim Brotherhood lawmaker and candidate Hussein Ibrahim said the campaigners were arrested while hanging posters for one of the group's four female candidates.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said the workers violated an election law banning the use of religious slogans.
Hussein said the posters contained the phrases "God is great" and "Praise be to God," common phrases not associated exclusively with the group. He accused the government of targeting the group.

"This is the beginning of a blatant election fraud since the ruling party candidates' posters were left untouched although they contained full verses of the Qur’an (Islam's holy book)," he said.

The ban on religious slogans by Egypt's Electoral Committee forced the group to forgo its longtime slogan "Islam is the Solution" in favour of substitutes like "Change Is Our Path."

Tuesday's arrests bring the number of Brotherhood members arrested to about 250 since the group announced on Oct. 9 its decision to participate in the elections. Police say they have detained 160 in the past week alone. Thirty remain in custody.
That's not the only drama in Egypt's election campaign, though:

Egypt's largest liberal opposition party Wafd threatened on Tuesday to boycott a parliamentary election next month after state television refused to air its political advertisements.

A spokesman for the party, Mohammed Sherdi, told a news conference Wafd would boycott the election "if the government's obstinacy towards the Wafd party and the refusal of its right to air political advertisements continues."

Wafd was the first to announce it would contest the November election after Egyptian dissident and former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed ElBaradei called for a boycott.

Sherdi said state television refused to air the advertisement because it was not approved by the election committee.

"But this campaign has nothing to do with the election. It is a political advertisement for the group that has been in the works for five months," he said.

The head of the state broadcaster, Osama al-Sheik, said on Monday that television would air such advertisements only if they were approved by the election committee.
And to add to the mess, inject Jimmy Carter.

Carter offered to monitor the elections. The Muslim Brotherhood was enthusiastic about the idea, but Mofid Shehab, Minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils, said that any outside observers would prejudice the sovereignty of the Egypt.

It is a really ugly situation. If true, free elections were held, the extremists would do well - but it does not appear that they can win, because they are running for less than half the available offices.

However, the government seems to be running roughshod over all possible candidates, not just Islamists.

Any way you look at it, Egyptians have no freedom and no democracy. But before free elections can be held, a few years of true freedom needs to come first, so the people can make truly informed decisions. This means freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, not to mention freedom of religion.

The government might be better than some of the alternatives but it is sacrificing freedom altogether, and the result is that all Egyptians are losing.