CAIRO — Islamists looked to seal their domination of Egypt’s first democratically elected parliament as Egyptians voted Tuesday in the final round of multistage elections.
The end of voting and the convening of parliament, due on Jan. 23, could set the stage for jostling for authority between the ruling military and lawmakers, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The two sides must work out how to put together a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution.
Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is on track to emerge as the largest bloc by far in parliament, demand the legislature be allowed to choose the panel. However, the military is trying to grab a role for itself to ensure that it continues to be above any civilian scrutiny.
The military has said that presidential elections would be held before the end of June, but it has yet to say whether the drafting of the new constitution should come before the vote, as Islamists want. The generals, who took power after the Feb. 11 fall of Hosni Mubarak, say they will step aside when a new president is sworn in.
Elections for the 498-seat parliament are the first to be held since Mubarak’s ouster. The vote, which began Nov. 28, has been the fairest and freest in memory, a sharp contrast to the large scale rigging and fraud that defined almost every election since army officers seized power in a 1952 coup.
In the third and final round of the election, some 14 million voters in a third of Egypt’s 27 provinces were picking 150 members of parliament on Tuesday, the first of two days of voting that will be followed by runoffs next week.
The balloting is taking place in areas known as strongholds of Islamist parties and is unlikely to change the trend of the election so far.
In the previous two stages of the election, the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group that is Egypt’s most organized political force, has emerged with between 40-50 percent of the vote so far. The Al-Nour Party, which is based in the more conservative Islamic Salafi movement, has gained around 20 percent.
Liberal and secular groups that led the uprising that forced Mubarak from power have performed poorly in the staggered elections, which started Nov. 28.
The exact numbers of seats won by each group so far could not be known because of the complicated voting system Egypt is using.
Some seats are determined in a direct race between candidates, while others are divvied out in proportion to each party’s percentage of overall votes. The election commission is to announce the actual numbers of seats at the end of the entire process. Final election results are due to be announced Jan. 13.
Elections for parliament’s toothless upper house have been brought forward by the military and will now be held next month in two stages.
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