Islamists poised to consolidate in Egyptian polls

Egypt`s first free election in six decades is unfolding in three stages until January.

Cairo: Islamists are poised to further
consolidate their overwhelming lead in the second phase of
Egyptian parliamentary polls, as millions headed to polling
booths today to decide the future of nine governorates, in the
first landmark elections since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

Voting has been relatively peaceful, with no major
irregularities reported.

Egypt`s moderate Islamists -- the Muslim Brotherhood --
emerged as the largest force in the first round of elections
with their Freedom and Justice Party winning 36 per cent of
the popular vote. But the surprise showing came from the
radical Salafist al Nour party that grabbed almost 25 per cent
of the vote.

Islamists are set to consolidate their gains this week,
with polling taking place in more rural and conservative
areas, the BBC reported. But unlike the previous phase, almost
all polling stations opened on time, according to the Supreme
Judicial Committee for Elections.

State television did report, however, that that one
polling station in Giza was closed for three hours after a
shoot-out between rival candidates. No-one was killed, while
seven people were detained by security forces.

About 18 million Egyptians are eligible to vote in two
days of polls and a run-off being held a week later.

"We will not rule Egypt alone. Parliament will include
all the colours of the rainbow that must agree on one
direction, one goal," the Muslim Brotherhood`s General Guide,
Mohammed Badie, said as he sought to reassure voters that the
Islamic party wanted to form a broad coalition.

Islamist candidates are expected to build on their
earlier gains, with the ultraconservative Salafist al-Nour
Party forecast to do particularly well in the conservative
areas, the BBC said. Al-Nour won 24.4 per cent in the first
round`s party-list vote and five individual seats.

The Egyptian liberal parties managed roughly 30 per cent
of the vote together. While the first round laid out a trend,
the second round would decide how the future political
landscape of Egypt would look like.

While the Brotherhood has tried hard to press itself as a
moderate force that will not impose Islamic laws on Egypt, the
radicals have made no bones of their hardline agenda.
The developments have left Egypt`s minority Christians
and secular liberals worried over their future in the country.

Some are hoping the second round of polls might tilt the
balance towards the liberal Egyptian bloc.

After a dismal showing in the first round, the Egypt bloc
has coordinated with the "revolution continues", a coalition
of Leftist and revolutionaries parties. The coordination
resulted in a unified list of independent candidates for all
constituencies that poll today.

Several young activists associated with Egypt`s January
25 Revolution will feature on the coalition`s ticket,
including Khaled Talima, Mohamed El-Kassas and Islam Lotfi.
The liberal electoral coalition includes the Egyptian
Social Democratic Party, the liberal Free Egyptians party and
the leftist Tagammu Party and will compete for 30 per cent of
the seats reserved for independent candidates in the second

The second round is covering nine of Egypt`s 27
governorates, including Giza, Beni Sueif, Sohag, Aswan,
Menoufiya, Sharqiya, Beheira, Ismailia and Suez. Run-off
elections are slated for 21 and 22 December.

The run up to the second round of elections has not been
as quiet as the first round.

In Sinai, the nephew of female candidates of the
Egyptian bloc was allegedly kidnapped to pressure the nominee
to step down, though she has not. Violent incidents like
opening of fire on rallies were also reported from some parts.

Security was beefed up once again with the new minister
of interior vowed to tune preparations.
The long and complex election process will not be
completed until next month.

The aim is to elect a lower house of parliament, which
will then appoint a 100-member committee to draft a new

Under Egypt`s complex electoral system, two-thirds of the
498 elected seats in the People`s Assembly will be picked
through proportional representation, using lists drawn up by
parties and alliances.

The remaining seats are decided by a first-past-the-post-
system, with individual candidates required to win more than
50 per cent of the votes to avoid a run-off contest.

Two-thirds of members for both houses elected by PR
One-third chosen by first-past-the-post system Provinces
divided into three groups, voting on different dates.

The second round is taking place over two days in nine
governorates, which include some outer districts of the
capital Cairo, and more rural regions around the Nile Delta,
traditionally a stronghold of Political Islam.

Just as in the first round, queues formed early at some
polling stations, though one group of observers said it was
limited to the governorates of Giza and Buhaira.
Secularist and liberal candidates have been trailing in
third place so far.

The secular Egyptian Bloc came third in the first round
with 13.4 per cent of the vote, followed by the liberal Wafd
Party with 7.1 per cent and the moderate Islamist Wasat Party
with 4.3 per cent. The Revolution Continues, a group formed by
youth activists behind the uprising that ousted Mubarak in
February, won 3.5 per cent.

The election`s second round is taking place over two
days in nine governorates But the divide between the Freedom
and Justice Party and the Salafists is as important as that
between the religious and secular parties, BBC says.

The Muslim Brotherhood are putting themselves forward as
more moderate and pragmatic, while the more uncompromising
Salafists are more in touch with the poorer sections of
Egyptian society, he adds.

Mubarak stepped down in February after weeks of
large-scale political protests in Cairo and across the

The military took over the running of the country, but it
has been accused in recent months of trying to slow down the
transition to civilian rule and safeguard its own interests.
Protesters angry at the slow pace of reform have taken to
the streets, and last month 42 people were killed in clashes
with security forces.


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