CAIRO - The Muslim Brotherhood has called on rivals to accept results of the first round of Egypt's parliamentary polls, in which Islamists took most seats in the country's first democratic elections in six decades.
"We call upon everyone, and all those who associate themselves with democracy, to respect the will of the people and accept their choice," the Brotherhood said in a statement cited by Reuters.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won more than 40% of the vote in the first round of elections earlier this week.
Ultra-conservative Salafists came second with nearly 20% of votes, while liberals trailed third.
Rivals accused the Brotherhood's party of handing out cheap food and medicine to influence voters and of breaking election rules by lobbying outside voting stations.
But the powerful Islamist group denies the allegations.
"Those who weren't successful ... should work hard to serve people to win their support next time."
Organizers of last week's vote acknowledged several violations but said they did not affect the results.
Established in 1928 in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful opposition force in Egypt.
The group is popular among the poor for its long record of charity work.
The Brotherhood has an overwhelmingly lay leadership of professionals with modern educations -- engineers, doctors, lawyers, academics and teachers.
The core membership is middle-class or lower middle-class.
The Brotherhood's political opponents say it seeks to impose Shari`ah on a country that has a large Christian minority and depends on welcoming Western tourists.
The movement insists it will pursue a moderate agenda if it wins power and do nothing to damage the tourist industry.
Liberal parties lacking the Islamists' grassroots base were trying to avert a landslide in run-off votes set for Monday and in two further rounds of an election staggered over six weeks.
The Egyptian Bloc, an alliance of liberal groups, ran large advertisements in newspapers to appeal for more support.
"Don't soften your support for the civil, moderate current to achieve a balanced parliament that represents the Egyptian people, and do not give up your rights," the message read.
With the Brotherhood and Salafists apparently set for a majority in the assembly, newspapers were debating if they would unite to form a dominant bloc.
Nader Bakkar, spokesman for the Salafi al-Nour Party, told al-Dustour daily that talk of forming a coalition with the Brotherhood was premature and the results of the second and third rounds would determine the possibilities.
Asem Abdel-Maged, spokesman for al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, a Salafi group not aligned closely with al-Nour, also ruled out an alliance with the Brotherhood.
"All the indications show that the Muslim Brotherhood does not want to inaugurate an alliance with Islamic forces, but rather to conclude a coalition with liberal and secularist forces during the coming parliament," he told al-Dustour.
Parliament was a rubber-stamp for a powerful presidency under Mubarak.
Army generals now wield ultimate power, but the popularly elected new assembly is likely to assert itself.