CAIRO - Thousands of Egyptian voters queued in front of polling stations early on Wednesday, December 14, to vote in the second round of parliamentary elections with Islamist parties expected to bolster their early gains.
"This is the first time our vote counts, we want to retain our rights," Fatma Sayed, a government employee in Suez, told Reuters.
Polling stations opened at 8 am (0600 GMT) in the second round of the three-stage vote.
Some 18.8 million Egyptians are eligible to cast their ballots in this round of the first legislative polls since a popular uprising ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-rule in February.
"I am voting for change in the country, for a change of regime," accountant Amr Monafi, 45, told AFP.
The election's first stage on November 28 saw Islamist parties crush their liberal rivals, mirroring a pattern established in Tunisia and Morocco following a string of popular uprisings across the region.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom & Justice party proportional lists represented 11 parties who are members of the Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance.
Final results from the first round have revealed the Alliance secured 40 percent of the seats saved for proportional lists. It is not yet clear how many of the winners are from the FJP versus other parties.
The Salafist Al-Nur party came in second place with 24.4 percent.
Other liberal parties, including the Egyptian Bloc and El-Wafd Party, managed 29.3 percent.
The elected parliament will play a key role in drafting a new constitution for the country.
The document will define the future powers of competing democratic institutions after decades of autocratic rule.
Under a complex system, two-thirds of the 498 elected lower house seats go proportionately to party lists, with the rest going to individual candidates, who must win more than 50 percent of votes in the first round to avoid a run-off.
The parliament's lower house vote will not be completed until January, while the army will not hand over full powers until after a presidential election in mid-2012.
Watching election process very closely, analysts expected Islamist parties to consolidate their gains in the second round of elections.
I think the major trend will continue (in the second round) with some minor changes, Hassan Abou Taleb, political analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Reuters.
However, he suggested some voters, concerned by the rise of Islamists, might give a modest boost to liberals.
Liberal politicians say they are trying to coordinate their effort more effectively in this round to avoid splitting their vote and have also tried to revitalize campaigns with more active street canvassing.
The FJP will be first, but I think the percentage will be reduced relative to the first round, he added.
Following the results of the first round, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie has sought to reassure voters, saying his group wants to work in a broad coalition after the parliamentary election that is staggered over six weeks and ends in January.
"We will not rule Egypt alone," he told a private television channel this month.
Parliament will include all the colors of the rainbow that must agree on one direction, one goal.
Some analysts say the Brotherhood might prefer to find non-Islamist allies in parliament, rather than lining up with the main Salafi al-Nour Party.
"There is a big difference between the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood," said Ahram's Abou Taleb.
There is a real competition from an ideological perspective and also from their political experience.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net