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“The people choose their representatives today,” reads a front-page headline in state-run Al-Akhbar. Other state-run dailies echo a similarly positive tone. “Millions of voters elect the biggest parliament in Egypt’s history,” reads state-run Al-Ahram's front page headline. In contrast, most privately owned newspapers highlight acts of violence and ongoing violations ahead of the opening of today’s polls.
NDP secretary general Safwat al-Sherif asserts that Egypt, under the leadership of President Mubarak, is entrenching the practice of democracy, reports state-run Al-Akhbar. Al-Sherif calls on voters to exercise their right to vote in elections, pledging elections will be held in all districts despite contrary “rumors," according to Al-Gomhorriya.
Al-Akhbar reports that al-Sherif sent a letter to each voter, stressing the importance of voters as decision makers, and urging them to vote for the candidate that best represents their interests. Habib al-Adli says that although state security services will remain neutral with respect to candidates, the police will confront any group that attempts to disturb the stability of the electoral process, according to Al-Ahram.
Minister of Information Anas al-Fiqqi emphasizes that Egypt’s national media remain careful to provide equal air time to all candidates, reports state-run Al-Akhbar.
Editor-in-chief of state-run Al-Akhbar, Mohammed Barakat, notes that the new People’s Assembly, to be selected in this election, will determine Egypt’s future for the next five years.
“Today is the real beginning of the birth of a new parliament representing the people’s will," according to Barakat, with the new parliament constituting the product of the public’s “free choice” amid guarantees that the elections be held in a “democratic” and “transparent” framework. The government insists that it will conduct elections in accordance with guidelines set by the High Elections Commission and ensure that all candidates abide by those guidelines. Barakat urges his readers to dismiss rumors of canceled elections in certain districts while exercising their constitutional right to participate.
"We must remain aware of the national interest” and allow ourselves take pride in this moment of democratic triumph, says Al-Ahram's Editor-in-Chief Ossama Saraya. Egyptian citizens are not standing by as mere observers but are rather shaping their country’s history together, he added.
Simultaneously, several privately-owned newspapers are documenting acts of violence and ongoing violations. Al-Dostour reports that several hotly contested districts witnessed clashes in Upper Egypt and a few Northern districts. According to the report, dozens were sent to hospitals following violent clashes between competing groups of NDP candidate supporters in Luxor.
Al-Shorouk reports that the chief investigator of Matariya and Ein Shams held a closed meeting Saturday night with 450 martial arts experts and 900 thugs recruited by individual candidates and state security services. According to Al-Shorouk, thugs are concentrated in areas that are dominated by powerful families.
Al-Gomhorriya that the coalition “Monitors without Borders” noted an increase in the number of violent confrontations and an invasion of candidates’ personal privacy. It also noted an increase in the number of electoral violations by almost all candidates in Upper Egypt.
Al-Wafd, published by the liberal Wafd party, reports that financing constitutes NDP’s chief electoral weapon. According to the report, the government approved LE6 billion worth of projects supporting NDP candidates, and government ministers distributed electronic goods to millions as bribes. In addition, most candidates violated the LE200,000 campaign spending limits, according to a recent study which highlighted that total campaign spending this year will likely surpass LE19 billion in contrast to spending LE6 billion in 2005.
NDP officials and state-run newspapers continue to launch attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Al-Shorouk reports an escalation of an ongoing electronic propaganda war between the NDP and the MB. According to Youssef Wirdani, chief editor of NDP’s website, the NDP seeks to document the Brotherhood’s “black history” in order to reveal the grave danger that the group poses for Egypt’s future.
NDP Youth Secretary, Mohammed Hayba, states that voters know that the MB employs religious rhetoric without offering tangible benefits to their districts, reports Al-Shorouk. She adds that the MB operates without transparency and has weak political influence. Sources within the MB told Al-Shorouk that the MB is currently preparing a strategy for how to confront various scenarios of electoral fraud carried out by NDP candidates and state security services. Another Brotherhood source told Al-Shorouk that the group received information to the effect that police officers gathered large numbers of thugs and directed them to promote chaos with the aim of preventing voters from entering the stations. The Brotherhood says it is ready to deploy forces trained in street fighting and armed with sticks and wooden pieces in case thugs interfere to prevent voters from entering the polls.
Finally, the court of administrative justice issued a ruling on Saturday halting elections in the district of Tala in Menoufia. Courts of administrative justice ruled to halt elections in the governorate of Kafr al-Sheikh, in addition to six districts in the governorates of Giza and October 6.
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Youm7: Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned