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Islamists crushed in Egypt election

CAIRO, Dec 1 – Egypt\’s ruling National Democratic Party wiped out its Islamist opponents from parliament in the first round of a disputed election, according to official results released on Tuesday night.

The NDP won 209 of 221 seats in the first round of voting on Sunday. Two-hundred-and-eighty-seven seats will be contested in the run-off on December 5.

The Muslim Brotherhood failed to win a single seat, but the group had said before the results were announced that it had at least 26 candidates who would run in the second round,

16 of them incumbents.

Four small legal opposition parties won five seats between them and seven went to independents who are not affiliated with the Brotherhood.

Most of the seats in the run-off will be contested by candidates of President Hosni Mubarak\’s NDP, which fielded more than 800 for parliament\’s 508 seats.

Election officials said turnout was 35 percent of the country\’s 40 million eligible voters, out of 80 million people.

The Brotherhood, the only serious opposition force in the country, registers its candidates as independents to circumvent a ban on religious parties. It won a fifth of seats in the last election in 2005.

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Human rights groups say Sunday\’s vote was marred by widespread violence and fraud, and the White House expressed disappointment at the way the election was conducted.

The Brotherhood fielded 130 candidates, compared with about 800 for the NDP, after more than a dozen were disqualified and at least 1,200 supporters arrested.

The group had already denounced the election as "rigged and invalid."

Egypt\’s electoral commission dismissed the claim.

"The commission categorically rejects the allegations that the election was marred by fraud," commission spokesman Sameh el-Kashef told a news conference.

"While the commission regrets that certain irregularities took place, it is satisfied with the fact that these irregularities did not impact on the transparency of the first round of the election," he said.

Kashef said that only 1,053 ballot boxes out of 89,588 had been discarded and put turnout at 35 percent.

The head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, Hafez Abu Saada, had previously said voter turn out was no more than 15 percent.

Egyptian watchdogs monitoring the election and international rights groups reported deadly violence, vote rigging and the intimidation of opposition candidates, while Washington called reports of numerous irregularities "worrying."

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"The United States is disappointed with the conduct during and leading up to Egypt\’s November 28 legislative elections," said White House national security spokesman Mike Hammer.

"The numerous reported irregularities at the polls, the lack of international monitors and the many problems encountered by domestic monitors, and the restrictions on the basic freedoms of association, speech and press in the run-up to the elections are worrying," he added.

Analysts say President Barack Obama\’s administration is focusing more on its key regional alley as it approaches a presidential election in 2011. Mubarak, 82, has yet to say whether he will run for another term.

"Washington policy makers are concerned by what seems to be a deterioration in political liberties ahead of the first leadership succession in 30 years," said Michele Dunne, a former State Department diplomat.

"There is concern that there is rising dissatisfaction among people in Egypt," said Dunne, a member of a group of US foreign policy experts who consult with the Obama administration on policy towards Egypt.

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