Muslim Brotherhood to boycott Egypt's local polls

(dpa) - Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement will boycott local elections slated to be held Tuesday in response to a government crackdown against its members, the movement said Monday.

The government defended its campaign against the movement ahead of elections, saying the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood was legally banned from political participation.

Under Egyptian law, religious groups are legally barred from political activities.

"The move to boycott the key elections comes in response to many violations by the Egyptian government and security bodies," a source from the movement told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

"The government has removed many of our candidates from election lists without giving a reason. Court orders allowing some of our candidates to run in the elections have not been carried out," the source said.

The movement has called on the people to boycott the elections, in which 4,500 city councils are being contested.

Local elections have acquired new significance after a constitutional amendment in 2005 made presidential candidacy conditional on gaining the endorsements of 250 members of parliament and local councils.

The Brotherhood, which was banned in 1954 in the wake of a campaign of assassinations, renounced violence in the 1970s.

"The law is clear on the issue. This is a banned group; hence the government has the right to go after and hold individuals engaging in illegal activities," Gihad Ouda, a senior member of the ruling national Democratic Party, told dpa.

Although the movement is still outlawed, its candidates running as independents won 88 seats in the 454-member parliament in the 2005 legislative election.

Fearing a repeat of the Brotherhood's surprising 2005 victory, the government has rounded up at least 800 members of the movement across the country since February.

"It seems that there has been a tacit decision by the government to bar the Muslim Brotherhood from any political activities since the 2005 legislative elections," said Khalil al-Anani, a political analyst at the al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies.

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