In the name of the father: in the wake of recent elections, Egypt's upper house of parliament looks very familiar, with the ruling party firmly in control. With apathy now more prevalent than activism, the only political issue that seems to interest Egyptians is if and how the president's son will take over the mantle of power. Eamonn Gearon reports from Cairo.

Author:Gearon, Eamonn
Position:CURRENT AFFAIRS - Gamal Mubarak
 
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EGYPT'S LATE JUNE Shoura council elections left the composition of the country's upper house of parliament with, unsurprisingly, a very familiar look. Not even those "independent" Muslim Brotherhood candidates who would previously have expected to win did so. It seems that Egyptian authorities have virtually given up even the pretence of holding free or fair electoral contests.

The presence of the 264-member Shoura Council (Consultative Council) only dates back to 1980 when it was created under Article 196 of the constitution. According to the articles relating to the composition of the Council, one third of its members are directly appointed by the president, with elections for the remaining two-thirds non-appointed members held in two stages, which are always separated by a gap of three years.

The legislative powers of the Shoura Council remain limited, with the country's main legislative body, the 454-member People's Assembly retaining the last word in the event of any disagreement between the two houses.

While Egypt has officially been a democracy since 1953, many now regard the Arab world's most populous nation as an autocratic regime. The popular view of the country as a major, sun-drenched tourist destination for Europeans does not in any way alter the reality of the country's political situation. Nor is it helped by the US, its most important foreign backer, ignoring the situation while the country remains a key ally in the so-called "war on terror".

The various complaints from voters and observers on the day of the election were too widespread and too numerous to be written off as the whining of an ineffectual and beaten opposition. Beating the opposition was, coincidentally, just one of the complaints levelled against the authorities on the day.

Violence aside, there were widespread reports of intimidation, stuffed ballot boxes in advance of polling stations opening, access to polling stations being blocked by lines of riot police, Egyptian and foreign election monitors alike refused entry to these same stations as well as them being closed sometimes hours in advance of the official closing time.

An irate, denied voter asked a question that should go out across the world: "Why do they bother holding elections if they don't let people vote?" If it all sounds too implausible, the photographic evidence to back up these claims is most compelling, as are numerous witness statements.

One man complained that no bearded men were being...

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