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Ahead of parliamentary elections, Egypt again cracks down on opposition groups.
Political activists also point to the threat of state force, often legitimized during elections by Egypt’s controversial emergency law. The country has been in a continuous state of emergency since 1981.
Critics argue that the law, originally implemented to combat extremism, now limits human rights by providing impunity to Egypt’s vast security forces.
Elections for Egypt’s upper house of parliament earlier this year were marred by violence and allegations of vote-rigging and other official manipulation throughout several districts.
“This is standard operating procedure in Egypt — that’s how elections are run here,” said Dina Shehata, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a state-funded think tank. “Egypt has a democracy, but it’s a limited one.”
Mubarak told his supporters this month that the upcoming Peoples’ Assembly election would be “free and have integrity.”
Alia El Mahdi, an NDP member and dean of Cairo University’s political science and economics department, said that Egypt has opened up significantly since 2005, when the last parliamentary elections were held.
“Egyptians today are in a much better situation than they were in 2005, in terms of acknowledging that their votes actually count. Overall, they believe that real change can and will come through the polls,” El Mahdi said.
Battle lines, however, have already been drawn in the weeks leading up to the contest, scheduled for Nov. 28.
Several times this month, security forces beat and arrested supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group, while hanging campaign posters for their candidate in the coastal city of Alexandria.
Police have detained hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood campaigners since October, according to local media reports.
Rights groups also criticize Egypt’s recent restrictions to several independent media outlets, from shutting down television stations to controlling text messaging.
Also this month, the government revoked licenses for companies that provide satellite uplinks to broadcast companies. Media professionals argue the move will restrict their ability to produce live, on-air coverage of the elections.
“We don’t consider the elections to be free or fair,” said Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information organization. “All signs point to the fact that this election will be no different that previous ones. It may even be worse than previous elections.”