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Egypt's parliamentary election came under mounting criticism on Monday from both the opposition and civil

Egypt's biggest and most powerful opposition movement

Muslim Brotherhood accuses Egypt regime of 'falsifying the will of Egyptians', 'effective rigging' of elections.

By Ines Bel Aiba - CAIRO

society groups, with NGOs threatening a boycott of their observer mission.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group in Egypt, openly accused the government of rigging the vote which starts next Sunday by stopping its candidates from campaigning and arresting nearly 250 of its supporters.

The "violence against opposition candidates, particularly those of the Brotherhood" showed that the authorities were bent on "falsifying the will of Egyptians," senior Brotherhood official Mohammed Mursi told a news conference.

Since the Brotherhood announced in early October that it would contest the election, with a second round to be held on December 5, more than 1,200 of its supporters have been rounded up, of whom around 500 remain in custody, he said.

The group, which registers its candidates as independents to skirt an Egyptian ban on religious parties, is fielding 130 candidates for the 508 seats in parliament.

Saad al-Katatni, who headed the Brotherhood bloc in the outgoing parliament in which it held a fifth of the seats, said: "What is going on with these elections is beyond imagination.

"What is under way is the effective rigging of the elections," Katatni said, adding that he was surrounded by security agents everywhere he went in his campaign for re-election.

Egyptian civil society groups on Monday threatened to boycott the poll because of obstacles to their mission.

Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights chief Hafez Abu Seada said poll observers were being required to seek authorisation from the heads of individual polling stations on top of clearance from the electoral commission.

He urged President Hosni Mubarak to intervene immediately in keeping with his pledge of free elections to allow NGOs to do their work unhindered.

Abu Seada said four people had already been killed in campaign-related violence, without giving details, and warned that the situation was likely to deteriorate.

"Up until now, there have been four deaths in the election campaign. In (the last poll in) 2005, there were 14 deaths and we expect the number of victims to be much higher" this year, he said.

Violent incidents broke out last Friday between Brotherhood supporters and security forces during protests in the northern city of Alexandria and several areas of the Nile Delta, also north of the capital.

Another opposition group, the secular Al-Wafd, has said its camp has been coming under attack by supporters of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party from Aswan in the south to Alexandria in the north.

The authorities have pledged a free and transparent election while warning that demonstrations would not be tolerated as part of the polling process.

Last week, Egypt accused the United States of meddling in its affairs in unusually harsh criticism after Washington called for foreign monitors in the election and also met with a group pressing for reform.

The US State Department said Brotherhood members faced arbitrary detention and pressure from the authorities.

The parliamentary vote is to be followed next year by a presidential election for which Mubarak, who is 82 and has ruled Egypt for almost three decades, has yet to announce his candidacy.

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