(Photo: Police carry away ballot boxes after polls closed at Mahalla El Kubra, north of Cairo November 28, 2010/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has been pushed to the sidelines of mainstream politics after an election it said was rigged, a step that may empower radicals who say an Islamic state can only be achieved by force.
The Islamist group that held a fifth of seats in the outgoing parliament cannot be certain to retain any seats after Sunday’s first round of voting, which Egyptian monitors said was littered with abuses. The group may now withdraw from the race.
President Hosni Mubarak’s party is assured of victory. But reducing the Brotherhood’s presence to a rump — at best — looks like a heavyhanded show of strength by authorities nervous about dissent before Egypt’s presidential vote next year.
Quashing the government’s Islamist critics in the assembly shuts one more valve for Egyptians to vent frustrations about the ruling party’s monopoly on power and surging prices hurting the numerous poor people among a populace of 79 million.
“The current government policy is essentially quite dangerous and may ultimately backfire,” said IHS Global Insight analyst Sara Hassan. “A younger more radicalised generation of Islamists allied with the group’s hardliners may question this strategy (of non-violence by the Brotherhood), and in their frustration seek other options,” she said.