CAIRO - Egyptians returned to polls on Wednesday, December 21, in the run-off of the second phase of the country's parliamentary elections after five days of violence in Cairo.
"All demonstrations should stop to end this violence until we finish elections and elect a president then all the demonstrators can voice their concerns through members of parliament," Erian Saleeb, 64, who works in the tourist industry, told Reuters.
Voters in nine governorates went to polling stations in run-off votes on Wednesday and Thursday.
The first two phases of the elections, which ends on January 11, have seen Islamists winning most votes.
A large percentage of the individual seats up for grabs in the run-offs will be contested between Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi candidates.
Egypt's system involves a mixture of party lists and individual candidates.
The vote follows five days of deadly clashes between protestors and army troops, which left 13 people dead and scores injured.
"God willing, we will complete the revolution by January 25 by bringing down the army council," said 25-year-old protester Mahmoud, who declined to give his full name.
The uprising against president Hosni Mubarak began on January 25 and lasted 18 days.
Near where he spoke, the authorities have erected walls of concrete blocks, barring access from the Tahrir Square on roads leading to the parliament, the cabinet and Interior Ministry where violence has been the most fierce.
A few hundred hardy protesters were still in and around the square on Wednesday, surrounded by streets strewn with rocks exchanged between them and security forces.
Some protesters held up bullets and cartridge cases they say were used against them.
Traffic passed through other parts of the big square.
The use of force by army troops against protestors has sparked outrage from Egyptians and the world.
"This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, some of the strongest U.S. criticism of Egypt's new rulers.
Images of soldiers dragging a woman lying on the ground by her shirt that exposed her underwear have been widely circulated on the Internet.
About 2,000 women marched to Tahrir on Tuesday dressed in black and flanked by male protesters who vowed to protect them from harassment.
"The women of Egypt are a red line!" they chanted.
"What happened to the girl who was stripped and dragged was sheer savagery, said Sarah Rifaat, a 27-year-old environmentalist.
We cannot be silent about this. I want someone from the military council to admit responsibility."
In a statement, the army council apologized, saying it "respects and appreciates Egyptian women and their right to protest and fully participate in political life."
An army general said it was an isolated case and under investigation.
But other generals and their advisers have condemned the pro-democracy demonstrators, who they accuse of wreaking havoc.
Retired general Abdel Moneim Kato, an army adviser, told the daily al-Shorouk that anyone involved in incidents such as the burning of a building near Tahrir that held historic archives was "a vagrant who should be burnt in Hitler's incinerators."
One opposition group that has lowered its profile in the protests is the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party now leads the election results.
Analysts say the Brotherhood has kept a low profile as it is determined to see the vote completed, putting it in a commanding position in the new assembly and securing its place in mainstream politics for the first time in its 83-year history.
Washington has reached out to Islamists in a shift in approach since the summer.A senior US diplomat met Islamist and other newly elected members of parliament in the northern city of Alexandria, the embassy said on Tuesday.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net