, CAIRO, Nov 29 – Vote counting was underway in Egypt on Monday following legislative elections which independent monitors charged were marred by several deaths, violent clashes, intimidation and ballot stuffing.
Early estimates put voter turnout for Sunday\’s vote at around 25 percent, slightly lower than five years ago.
Final results, which are expected to hand a solid majority of parliament\’s 508 elected seats to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of President Hosni Mubarak, are expected Tuesday.
Press reports said that up to four people were killed in election-related violence while monitors said they had recorded numerous electoral violations, including ballot stuffing and denying voters access to polling stations.
"Four dead in \’violent\’ vote," ran the headline of the pro-government Egyptian Gazette on Monday, which said three of the dead were killed in separate incidents in Cairo, the Nile Delta and southern Egypt.
The Egyptian Coalition for Monitoring Elections listed the deaths of two men.
It said Hamdy Abdel Sabur, a supporter of a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Assyut, in Upper Egypt, "was shot dead by supporters of a candidate from the NDP."
The coalition, which represents 123 observer groups, added that another man, Hussein Salama Abu Jarai, was shot dead by supporters of a rival candidate in the region of Sheikh Zuwid in North Sinai.
On Sunday, a medic and relatives said that Omar Sayyed Sayyed, 24, son of an election candidate, was killed in Cairo\’s Matariya district the previous evening while putting up posters of his father. Police said he was killed in a dispute over a woman.
The Independent Coalition for Election Observers, another monitoring group, reported 83 electoral violations in 13 of Egypt\’s 30 governorates on Sunday.
It said the NDP\’s strategy was to "start by expelling delegates and monitors in the beginning of the day, then terrorise citizens with security and thugs, and lastly, forge ballot cards."
Egypt\’s ministry of the interior said however there were only "limited instances of violence" and "no election-related deaths."
Due to a systematic crackdown on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt\’s only serious organised opposition, the Islamists are predicted to win far fewer seats than the fifth of parliament they secured in the last election in 2005.
Medhat al-Haddad, a Brotherhood election official in the city of Alexandria, an Islamist stronghold, said vote rigging had been widespread.
"These elections took place in complete darkness, without any surveillance except by the NDP," Haddad said at a press conference after voting ended.
"We are demanding that the elections be declared invalid firstly because they took place in violation of… court decisions and secondly because of fraud," he added.
Brotherhood candidate Hussein Ibrahim said the group "would continue its peaceful struggle… against those who committed fraud."