December 28, 2010 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 653

Results of Elections to Egyptian People's Assembly - Ruling Party: 420 Seats, Muslim Brotherhood: 0

December 28, 2010 | By L. Azuri*
Egypt | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 653


The People's Assembly Elections Results – A Crushing Defeat for Muslim Brotherhood

The first round of Egypt's People's Assembly elections, held November 28, 2010, ended with the Muslim Brotherhood routed, while President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) enjoyed a sweeping victory.[1] The Brotherhood was expected to lose seats, considering the ongoing clashes between Brotherhood members and Egyptian security forces and following attempts by the NDP to hobble the Brotherhood and create general conditions ensuring its own victory. These included the arrest of more than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood members, a de-legitimization campaign against the movement, the issuing of media restrictions,[2] and the Egyptian regime's emphatic rejection of U.S. demands that the elections be held under international supervision.[3] None, however, expected so crushing a defeat for the Muslim Brotherhood. While in the outgoing Assembly, the Brotherhood had 88 seats– roughly 20% of the house[4] – in the recent elections not even one of its several hundred candidates won a seat in parliament.

The Muslim Brotherhood called the elections results a joke and say it is proof of the lack of democracy in Egypt under the NDP, which it accused of political thuggery and of rigging the elections, forging ballots, and falsifying results. Accordingly, the Brotherhood announced its decision to boycott the second round of elections, in which 27 of its candidates were slated to run.[5] The Al-Wafd party likewise decided to boycott the second round of elections, citing similar reasons. A number of its candidates chose to run nonetheless, for which the party suspended them.[6] The two parties' boycott of the second round of elections embarrassed the Egyptian regime and the ruling party, because it perpetuated the NDP's monopoly and the absence of any real opposition from the People's Assembly, thus strengthening the allegations that Egypt lacks real party pluralism or parliamentary democracy, and that the regime is preparing to transfer the presidency to Gamal Mubarak, since the upcoming presidential elections, slated for September 2011, are open only to candidates from parties represented in the People's Assembly.

Representatives from the opposition alleged that, troubled by the results of the first round, the NDP had made efforts to strengthen the opposition in the second round – again by pressuring voters and forging ballots – in order to debunk claims that it had arranged to monopolize the People's Assembly. Ultimately, the second round ended with a total of 420 seats for the NDP; 69 for independent candidates, and 15 for opposition candidates (from the Al-Wafd, Tagammu', Al-Ghad, Al-Gil, Democratic Peace, and Social Justice parties), with 10 additional seats going to presidential appointees.[7] The regime maintained that the results reflect the will of the people and the traditional 80/20 ratio between the NDP and the opposition parties.

Mubarak: The Elections Were Fair; I Would Have Preferred to See Better Results for the Opposition

In an address to the NDP's parliamentary faction following the party's victory in the elections, Egyptian President Mubarak expressed his satisfaction with the elections process and stressed that the results are legitimate: "The NDP began preparing for these elections immediately following the last People's Assembly elections in 2005... The party's objective was and still is to create a new reality and to effect significant change in the lives of Egyptian citizens in every district, city, [population] center, and village throughout the homeland... The party prepared for the last elections with serious organizational measures... and presented the voters with promising leaders, capable of addressing their concerns and their expectations of the new parliament...

"We will strive to [prevent the recurrence of] infractions [such as] were experienced in these elections, in the form of negative and unacceptable behavior on the part of some of the candidates and their supporters. We condemn this behavior, which constitutes an attempt to distort the voters' [free] will by means of money, violence, and intimidation. These infractions – which the High Elections Committee addressed with responsibility and fairness – do not obscure the fact that the elections were held in most districts in accordance with laws and regulations, without any violence, deviation, or breach [of the law]...

"As party leader, I was pleased at the success of the NDP candidates, but as president of Egypt, I would have wanted [to see] better results for the rest of the parties. I wish they had not wasted their efforts by debating the boycott of the elections, then decided to participate in them, and then, in some cases, rejected them due to doubts regarding the results... I call on the NDP and the rest of the parties to learn a lesson from these elections, from their merits and shortcomings, so that pluralism might be increased and [Egypt's] party and political life enriched..."[8]

Opposition Fights to Overturn Elections; Regime Responds with Continued Delegitimization of Muslim Brotherhood, ElBaradei

In an attempt to pressure the regime into dismissing the newly-elected Assembly, the Muslim Brotherhood announced its intention to take legal action toward overturning the election results, and to submit evidence of election fraud to international bodies.[9] A number of former Brotherhood and Al-Wafd MPs even considered establishing a popular parliament, in parallel to the official one, and staged a number of rallies in protest against the elections results. To further its campaign, the Brotherhood also renewed its ties with other opposition elements, such as Al-Ghad party founder Dr. 'Ayman Nour[10], as well as former IAEA secretary-general Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei.[11] The latter has frequently spoken out against the regime since the elections, even mentioning the possibility of civil disobedience if demands for change are not met.[12]

The Egyptian regime did not remain indifferent to the opposition's moves, and continued its campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. Yousef Wardani, editor of the NDP's official website, wrote, for instance, that the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood is not yet over: "The campaign goes on and will not end, for the NDP is determined, in theory and in practice, not [to allow] religious and political activity to mix. It is very much aware of the attempts of the illegitimate [Muslim] Brotherhood to build itself up anew, and to try to convince the citizens that the legitimate channels of expression have been closed, that alternative institutions are the solution, and that a door has been opened to destructive, all-out civil disobedience. All civil forces in the country are required to support the [NDP] party in this campaign, and to invest efforts toward ensuring the civil character of the Egyptian state..."[13]

The regime also renewed its campaign to delegitimize ElBaradei and to constrain his activity. As part of this campaign, Sheikh Muhammad Lutfi 'Amer, head of the Salafi organization Ansar Al-Sunna ("Supporters of the Sunna") in Damanhour, Egypt, issued a fatwa that permitted killing ElBaradei for inciting against the regime. 'Amer, who in the past issued a fatwa in favor of transferring the presidency to Gamal Mubarak,[14] said that if ElBaradei did not retract his statements calling for civil disobedience, the regime would be justified in killing him in order to prevent fitna (civil strife).[15] It should be noted that two visits ElBaradei had scheduled – to the Egyptian Journalists Union and to Aswan, Egypt – were recently cancelled, and he was absent from a press conference of the "Popular Campaign" in support of his candidacy for the Egyptian presidency, instead addressing the conference via telephone.[16] On a later occasion, 'Amer said that anyone who called for civil disobedience should be killed, including the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi.[17]

The Elections Results – Responses and Analyses

Following are excerpts from reactions to the election results by several regime, Muslim Brotherhood, and civil society representatives, and from their analyses of the results:

1. The Official Line: The Muslim Brotherhood Was a Disease Afflicting the People's Assembly

In the Egyptian government press, a regime spokesman stated that fraud had been a marginal phenomenon in the elections, which on the whole were fair, and that the Muslim Brotherhood's defeat – and the NDP's resounding victory – had been caused by other factors, such as:

1) A lack of ideological and organizational cohesion among the Muslim Brotherhood, manifested in the increasing dominance of conservative elements within the movement and the decline of its reformist faction since the 2005 People's Assembly elections, and in Dr. Muhammad Al-Badi's nomination as the movement's leader; recent conflicts within the movement over whether to participate in or to boycott the People's Assembly elections; the Brotherhood's failure to present a detailed political platform or a feasible alternative to the current government's policy; and a lack of organizational preparation for the elections.

2) Public dissatisfaction with the performance of outgoing Muslim Brotherhood MPs and a lack of capable candidates to replace them; marginal contribution to legislation processes by Brotherhood MPs; corruption of Brotherhood MPs, some of whom allegedly used state funds to pay for medical treatment for themselves and their family; frequent media appearances at the expense of serving the public; conflation of religion and politics in the Brotherhood's policies.

3) A general decline in the influence of religious movements in the Middle East, such as in Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, and the Palestinian Authority.

4) The NDP's vitality, organizational abilities, and superior preparation for the elections, and the Egyptian public's satisfaction with the party's achievements over the past five years.

Editors in the Egyptian government press stated outright that the NDP's explicit intent was to oust Muslim Brotherhood MPs from the People's Assembly, but not other opposition parties, and asserted that the NDP had no intention of disbanding the People's Assembly elect. Al-Gumhouriyya editor Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim wrote: "The NDP took on the 2010 People's Assembly elections like a military campaign. Its main campaign was against the illegal movement [i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood]. The [Muslim] Brotherhood's winning of 88 seats in the [previous] People's Assembly was a blunder that the NDP strived to prevent [from recurring]... The NDP counted on winning 380 seats out of 508; it had no desire to marginalize [all] the [opposition] parties, contrary to what was reported..."[18]

Al-Ahram editor Osama Saraya wrote in a similar vein: "The mudslinging and exchange of accusations [regarding the elections] overlooked one of their greatest achievements: besieging the worst disease that [ever] afflicted political life in Egypt; that is, reining in the outlawed movement that infiltrated the political arena under our very noses, in the guise of independent [MPs]... The NDP may have given priority to [its] efforts to oust this movement, but the deciding factor was the considerable experience [gained by] the Egyptian voter, who had learned that the Muslim Brotherhood held 88 seats in parliament for five years, yet its MPs had not done a single thing..."[19]

Karam Gaber, chairman of the board of directors at the weekly Roz Al-Yousef, wrote: "With all due respect for the lovers of riot and uproar, even if the elections are held [another] thousand times, the parliament's makeup will not change. [This makeup reflects] the parties' true weight in the street and among the public; the situation has changed little in the five years since [the last elections]. This [People's] Assembly is here to stay..."[20]

2. The Muslim Brotherhood: A People's Assembly Without an Opposition Is Illegitimate

The opposition rejected the regime's claims, accusing it of imposing a one-party monopoly. Dr. 'Issam Al-'Arian, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's General Guide Office, wrote: "[The NDP's campaign leaders] did not grasp the proportions of [their] stupidity vis-à-vis the homeland, the people, the People's Assembly, and the NDP itself. They did not sense the severity of the crime they were committing, nor did they take notice of the dire problem they were creating for themselves with their own hands... For years, one problem has reigned supreme in their thoughts, distracting them from all [other] problems, a single question that has prevented them from taking a broad view of the political, party, and parliamentary arenas...

"A parliament was formed in Egypt that does not reflect the will of the people, but [only] that of the forgers and thugs who hijacked the will of the nation. The parliament has completely lost its popular legitimacy. The Egyptians who participated [in the elections], managing to escape the siege of those thugs, will never accept these counterfeited results. There are illogical and irrational, and cannot be justified in any way... The parliament has become one without an opposition, a parliament dominated by the NDP alone, in which it can sing [any tune] it wants without supervision or accountability. It crushed all the opposition leaders, even those from the regime's own camp [i.e. opposition MPs who generally toed the NDP line] who [occasionally] disagreed with it – all for the sake of the ultimate goal: ousting the Muslim Brotherhood from parliament...

"What will really guarantee a representative [parliament] reflecting all [political] orientations is full judicial supervision, until the regime is convinced by, or gives into, the will of the people to hold free and fair elections... The Muslim Brotherhood is not terribly upset over being excluded from parliament, and no one can deny it its constitutional rights... The regime cannot eliminate it or remove it from public life and from the public sphere, and no one can deter it from its wise and balanced policy. The regime will not drag it into violence and anarchy..."[21]

In another article, Al-'Arian wrote: "The results of the last parliamentary elections in Egypt were like an earthquake striking the homeland. The elections and what accompanied them took everyone more than 60 years back... It will lead to 'the death of politics' and a loss of hope among citizens for any change or reform through peaceful political avenues, which means opening the door to violence or desperation and a withdrawal from the public arena to a pipe-dream world of illusions... If the bureaucratic and military elite becomes convinced of the futility of NDP-style reform, this will open a dangerous door to [pursuing] change in ways other than politics and elections..."[22]

3. Civil Society Representatives: The Elections Were Decided Before the Votes Were Cast

S'ad Al-Din Ibrahim, founder and director of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies in Egypt and a board member of the Arab Democracy Foundation in Qatar, was also among those who spoke out against the elections results. The Ibn Khaldun Center observed the elections in an unofficial capacity, after the High Elections Committee rejected its request to be included among the Egyptian civil society organizations officially appointed to observe them.[23] Ibrahim, who resides abroad, wrote: "The Ibn Khaldun Center has observed elections in Egypt since 1995... Its observers and those who joined them from abroad were able to directly oversee more than 90% of the [polling stations] that were part of the statistical survey..."

Ibrahim pointed out two of his organizations' conclusions: "First, [in the recent elections] voter participation dropped to the lowest percentages [ever recorded] since the first elections in modern Egypt in 1924, with a [turnout] not exceeding 10%, half what it was in the 2005 elections... Second, [the elections were] a disgraceful and obvious sham, with thousands of ballots in favor of NDP candidates prepared and cast into the ballot-boxes ahead of time – which is to say before the [polling stations'] doors were even opened to the voters, or in the absence of opposition or independent [observers]. This explains the astronomical number of votes announced [in favor of the NDP] in [polling stations] where only hundreds, if not dozens, came to vote.

"In conclusion, the 2010 People's Assembly elections were a farce and, as such, were like all the previous elections under President Hosni Mubarak's [administration], except for the 1986 elections... This farce, which is turning Egypt and the Egyptians into a joke in the eyes of the world, cannot go on... That is why the sons of Egypt abroad insist on speaking out for the sake of rescuing Egypt..."[24]

During his latest visit to Egypt after the elections, S'ad Al-Din Ibrahim called for the elections to be overturned and held again under international supervision. He presented surveys conducted by the Ibn Khaldun Center, according to which the NDP should have won 40% of the votes, the Muslim Brotherhood 20%, and Al-Wafd 15%, with another 25% of votes divided among the rest of the parties and the independent candidates. Ibrahim called for all legal possibilities within Egypt to be exhausted before turning to the international court to challenge the elections results, estimating that this process would take a year. He said that Egyptians in Egypt would have to condemn the elections before he could exert any effective influence abroad and in international circles.[25]

*L. Azuri is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] The official results of the first round of elections were 209 seats for the NDP, 7 for independent candidates, two for the Al-Wafd party, and one each for the left-wing Tagammu' party, the Al-Ghad party, and the Social Justice party. Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 2, 2010.

[2] Regarding the issuing of media restrictions in anticipation of the elections, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No.3412, "Reactions to Closure of Satellite TV Channels," December 1, 2010, Reactions to Closure of Satellite TV Channels.

[3] Regarding Egypt's increased hostility toward the U.S., see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3400, "Egypt Intensifies Hostility towards U.S.," November 29, 2010, Egypt Intensifies Hostility towards U.S..

[4] Since the Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt, its representatives in the People's Assembly were officially independent MPs; however, they were known to be representatives of the movement.

[5] One Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Magdi 'Ashour, ran in the second round of elections despite the boycott declared by the movement, ultimately winning a seat. The Brotherhood leadership, however, said that it did not recognize 'Ashour as its representative in parliament, and called on him to resign. Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), December 11, 2010.

[6] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 9, 2010.

[7] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 8, 2010. Sixty-four seats were reserved for female candidates, according to new legislation implemented for the first time in these elections.

[8] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 13, 2010.

[9] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), December 12, 2010.

[10] On Nour's imprisonment after coming in second in Egypt's 2005 presidential elections, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No.1075, "Arab Media Reactions to the Imprisonment of Ayman Nour, Leader of Egypt's Al-Ghad Liberal Party," January 24, 2006, Arab Media Reactions to the Imprisonment of Ayman Nour, Leader of Egypt's Al-Ghad Liberal Party.

[11] Regarding prior delegitimization campaigns against ElBaradei and on the conditions he presented for submitting his candidacy for president, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.602, "Egyptian Government Launches Campaign to Delegitimize Former IAEA Sec-Gen Mohamed ElBaradei as Presidential Candidate," April 5, 2010, Egyptian Government Launches Campaign to Delegitimize Former IAEA Sec-Gen Mohamed ElBaradei as Presidential Candidate.

[12], December 8, 2010; Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), December 12, 2010. In an interview for Al-Jazeera TV, ElBaradei called on the Egyptian public to continue protesting against the election fraud in the streets of Cairo, but to refrain from violence. He said he hoped the situation would not deteriorate to the point of civil disobedience, and expressed his support for the establishment of an alternative popular parliament. Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), December 13, 2010.

[13], December 15, 2010.

[14], February 26, 2008.

[15], December 19, 2010.

[16] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), December 15, 17, 19, 2010.

[17] Al-Dustour (Egypt), December 19, 2010.

[18] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), December 9, 2010.

[19] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 10, 2010.

[20] Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), December 11, 2010.

[21], December 5, 2010.

[22] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), December 19, 2010.

[23] It should be noted that in the past, S'ad Al-Din Ibrahim supported Dr. Muhammad ElBaradei for president, and also said that he considered the Muslim Brotherhood a worthy alternative to the current Egyptian regime. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No.3203, "S'ad Al-Din Ibrahim: The Muslim Brotherhood – A Viable Alternative to the Egyptian Regime," August 31, 2010, S'ad Al-Din Ibrahim: The Muslim Brotherhood – A Viable Alternative to the Egyptian Regime.

[24] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), December 4, 2010.

[25] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), December 16, 2010.

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