MAHALLA EL-KUBRA, Egypt - Egyptians went to polling stations on Tuesday, January 3, in the final round of parliamentary election that has so far handed Islamists the biggest share of seats in the new parliament.
"I woke up early to go to vote in my village before going anywhere else," Mostafa Mohamed Ali, a factory worker from Mahalla el-Kubra in the industrial heartland north of Cairo, told Reuters.
"This is the most important thing for me now, of course, and for all of the country as well."
Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) in nine provinces in the rural south, which has the largest proportions of Christian voters, the Nile Delta region north of Cairo, and the restive Sinai desert region to the east.
Around 14 million voters are eligible to elect 150 representatives in this final round of vote.
In Mahalla, where labor unrest was a precursor to the wider protests that unseated president Hosni Mubarak, streets were dotted with posters from several parties, especially the Salafist Al-Nour party, promising an end to corruption.
The first two rounds of election saw Islamist parties taking the biggest share of votes.
Turnout in earlier rounds was far higher than in Mubarak's days, when ballot stuffing, thuggery and vote-rigging guaranteed landslide wins for his party.
Monitors have praised the polls as relatively free of irregularities.
Tuesday's vote has been overshadowed by the deaths of 17 people last month in clashes between the army and protesters demanding an immediate handover of power from the military to civilians.
The army says the poll process will not be derailed by violence.
Islamists Vs Liberals
Islamists are expected to consolidate their lot in the final round of Egypt's election.
"God willing, the FJP will win, Umm Mohammed, a government employee whose husband works in tourism in Sharm el-Sheikh, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) as she cast her ballot, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.
They are good people. Tourism is their priority, they will never shut it down."
Her friend, Umm Esraa, shares a similar view.
Most FJP people here work in tourism so they would be the first to be scared for its future."
The Brotherhood's party has earlier reiterated that it would work to boost Egypt's tourism industry, a main currency earner.
"No citizen who makes a living from this field should be concerned," FJP deputy leader Essam el-Erian said in statements last week.
Islamists' liberal rivals have fared badly in the first two rounds of Egypt's election.
Liberals accuse Islamist groups of flouting a ban on religious slogans in politics and telling voters their rivals were ungodly.
"We have been trying to tell people in our campaign before the third stage that we respect religions," Mohamed Abu Hamed, secretary general of the liberal Free Egyptians party, told Reuters.
Islamists in turn accuse one of the party's top figures, Coptic Christian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, and others of using media that they control to mount a disinformation campaign against them.The Brotherhood's party said in a statement it demanded from "media outlets, especially those owned by businessmen who ... still have interests with the previous regime, to remain objective and stop distorting this experience, which people have been waiting for a long time."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net