Low turnout for Egypt`s upper house election

The powers of the upper house are limited and it cannot block legislation in the lower house.

Cairo: Turnout was low as Egyptians voted
on Sunday for the upper house of parliament, in that are
the latest step in the country`s planned transition from
military to civilian rule.

Few voters showed up to cast their ballots at polling
stations in Cairo, one of 13 provinces where the first stage
of elections for the largely advisory Shura Council are taking
place. A second stage will take place on Feb. 14-15.

"We now feel we have a role in shaping the country`s
future," said Mohammed el-Hawari, a professor at Cairo`s Ain
Shams University and one of those who did vote.

The Shura Council is composed of 270 members. Only
two-thirds are elected while the rest are appointed.

Islamists dominated elections for the People`s Assembly,
the more powerful of the two houses of parliament, in voting
that ran from Nov. 28 through January.

Turnout was heavy in these elections, which were the
first since the Jan. 25-Feb. 11, 2011, mass uprising that
ousted Hosni Mubarak.

One secular party, the Free Egyptians, had announced that
it was boycotting Shura Council elections to protest what it
described as violations of Egypt`s election laws by Islamist
parties during the People`s Assembly vote.

The secularists say that that Islamists made heavy use of
religious slogans and campaigned too close to polling

Islamist spokesmen have denied using slogans
inappropriately, and said that all groups campaigned too close
to the stations.

Secular and liberal alliances, including youth parties
which led the anti-Mubarak uprising, have performed poorly in

Once the Shura Council elections are complete, according
to Egypt`s transition plan, the parliament is tasked to select
a 100-member panel to draft the country`s new constitution.

The ruling military council which took power after
Mubarak`s ouster is then scheduled to transfer power to an
elected civilian president by the end of June.

The army generals have been accused of mismanaging the
transitional period, of not carrying through sweeping reforms,
and of keeping Mubarak`s regime intact.

The voting comes a few days after hundreds of thousands
of Egyptians poured into the streets to mark the first
anniversary of their uprising and to press the military
council to step down.