Islamists dominate Egypt’s upper house
CAIROIslamists seized most seats in the two-stage vote for Egypt’s upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, the electoral commission said on Feb. 25. The results cap landmark legislative elections that saw Islamists propelled to the centre stage of Egyptian politics.
A commission official said the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) secured 105 seats, the Salafist Al-Nur party took 45, the liberal Wafd won 14, and the Egyptian Bloc eight. Another eight seats went to smaller factions, Agence France Presse reported. The vote, which began on Jan. 29, was for 180 seats in the 270-seat chamber in which the remaining third of seats are allocated by the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Members of both houses of parliament will now choose a panel to draft a new constitution. The powerful
Brotherhood’s FJP won a crushing victory in the lower house elections, contested over three months, to clinch 47 percent of seats. Al-Nur, representing the ultra-conservative Salafist current of political Islam, came second, with liberal parties trailing far behind.
NGO trial begin
Meanwhile, trial of dozens of democracy activists including 16 Americans has begun in Egypt yesterday in what critics say is a politically charged case which has set off a crisis in relations between Cairo and Washington and threatened $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid. Forty-three foreign and Egyptian non-profit workers - including the son of the U.S. transportation secretary - are accused of receiving illegal funds from abroad and carrying out political activities unrelated to their civil society work.
But yesterday, none of the Americans appeared in court, according to media reports. Les Campbell, the regional director of one of the accused US organisations, said his group’s foreign employees did not receive official summons from the court, so they would not come, Al Jazeera reported.
In a crowded courtroom on the outskirts of Cairo, lawyers who said they were volunteering in the case against the activists, demanded the defendants be imprisoned and accused them of “espionage”.
“These organizations are accused of espionage and going against the law. Most of them are in contact with the CIA.” Khaled Suleiman, a lawyer acting against the organizations, said. Those accused in the case were banned from leaving Egypt pending the trial and some of the U.S. citizens targeted in the probe have taken refuge at the American embassy. A senior U.S. official said Feb. 25 the Obama administration is in “intense discussions” with Egypt to resolve the legal case “in the coming days.