Claims of irregularities have overshadowed Egypt’s landmark multiparty election, in which polls have now closed. Foreign observers were excluded, but Egyptian monitors have reported numerous cases of suspected fraud.
It is said some voters were left out of registration lists, and that the ink on some ballots was not indelible – opening the way for double voting. There have also been reports of intimidation and bribery. One lawyer said: “we were told by officials that we would be allowed to monitor the checking of ballots, but it turned out that we weren’t.” The government’s decision to let nine candidates challenge the outgoing president was welcomed by Europe and the US, which is keen to promote democracy in the Middle East. But for critics of Hosni Mubarak, who has led the nation since 1981, the new openness is merely window-dressing for foreign viewing. They say real change is still far away. Mubarak’s main challengers are two liberals – Ayman Nour of the Ghad Party, and Nomaan Gomaa of Wafd. They are not expected to come close to defeating the president.