Protests and clashes as Egyptians head to polls


CAIRO: Egyptians headed to the polls Sunday in a legislative vote marred by violence and protests that is expected to see the ruling party emerge stronger at the expense of the harried Islamist opposition.
Violent clashes took place at several centres, with witnesses saying police fired tear gas at voters in the Nile Delta and in Qena, about 475 kilometres (300 miles) south of Cairo.
Egyptian monitors said election irregularities were rife and evident from the start of voting on Sunday.
“From the first moments of the election, there have been a raft of violations, including the use of force, that have threatened the voting process,” the Egyptian Coalition for Monitoring Elections said in a statement.
Security had been beefed up ahead of the vote after activists on Friday clashed with police at the end of a campaign overshadowed by violence and the arrests of more than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
A number of violent incidents occurred despite the increased security force deployment, including the killing of the son of an independent candidate in Cairo’s Matariya district.
Relatives said Omar Sayyed Sayyed, 24, was stabbed to death on Saturday night while was putting up posters of his father. A security offficial said the murder was a result of a private dispute.
In Gharbiya, in the Nile Delta, police used tear gas to disperse supporters of independent candidates after their delegates were prevented from entering polling centres to monitor voting, the Egyptian monitoring group said, adding that live rounds were fired from inside the centre.
Meanwhile, police said they had used teargas to disperse clashes between supporters of rival candidates outside polling stations in Qena, about 475 kilometres (300 miles) south of Cairo.
In Suez, witnesses said hundreds of supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition candidates demonstrated outside police headquarters to protest at not being allowed to enter the polling station.
Initial indications showed a low turnout in the country of 80 million people, where polls are traditionally eyed with suspicion and where past elections have been marked by deadly clashes between police and protesters and battles between knife-wielding thugs hired by rival candidates.