Cairo: Amid a crackdown on the opposition parties and the media, Egyptians on Sunday began voting in a parliamentary election marked by isolated protests and clashes, in polls which is expected to strengthen President Hosni Mobarak and weaken the Islamists.
In several areas, protests and clashes were reported during the election, which was preceded by a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) with more than 2,000 of its members detained. Even on Sunday some candidates of the MB were arrested in various cities.
Initial reports showed a low turnout in the country of 80 million people. Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (1130 IST) and are due to close at 7:00 pm (2230 IST), with around 41 million Egyptians eligible to vote for the 508 seats.
The first results are expected on Monday.
At noon, the capital city Cairo wore a deserted look with a few voters turning up at the voting booths.
The media was also kept away from covering the polls.
The media was barred after the High Election Committee (HEC) on Saturday announced new rules for it. The new rules renders the ID cards issued to nearly 500 reporters allowing them cover the elections useless.
There were also reports of rigging ballot boxes.
Before the polls opened, the son of an Independent candidate was stabbed to death in Cairo while he was putting up posters of his father.
The new parliament will have 518 members, 508 of whom will be elected and 10 will be appointed by presidential decree.
The 2010 elections are special as 64 seats from the parliament’s 508 are reserved for women.
The idea of a quota for women was criticised by many analysts saying it reflects how much influence the first lady have in the political life of Egypt.
The move was also opposed as women lawmakers have not been effective in parliaments before.
Many feminists have questioned whether having more women MPs will empower Egyptian women suffering marginalisation and oppression by ancient laws and regulations.