Islamists tipped to see gains in Egypt’s second poll

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Egyptians in nine provinces have started voting in the second round of the first parliamentary elections since a popular uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Dozens of people waited in line outside a polling station in a school near the Pyramids in Giza west of Cairo, waiting to cast their ballots and dip their fingers in purple ink to prevent double voting.

The election, held in three stages that will conclude early next year, is the first since Mr Mubarak’s departure and is expected to swing Egypt’s government in a more Islamist direction.

Islamist parties took a majority of the seats contested in the first round, and many expect them to do at least as well in the subsequent rounds.

Voter Hussein Khattab, an accountant, said he planned to vote for the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, the big winner in the first round, which has taken 47 per cent of the seats so far.

“We have to try Islamic rule to be able to decide if it’s good for us. If not we can go back to Tahrir,” said Mr Khattab, 60, referring to the square that was the focus of the uprising that toppled Mubarak.

“I want to have a constitution that will satisfy everyone,” he said. “This must achieve democracy, social justice and equality above all else.”

The Brotherhood faces its stiffest competition from ultra-conservative Salafi Muslims, whose Al-Nour bloc won an unexpected 21 per cent of seats in the first round.

The liberal Egyptian Bloc, which took 9 per cent of seats in the first round, is looking to increase its share and has vowed to beef up its presence near voting stations to ensure that Islamist parties are not violating the legal ban on campaigning on election days.

Many parties violated the ban during the first round.

The second round, which ends on Tuesday, will decide 180 seats in the 498-seat People’s Assembly, the parliament’s lower house. The third and final round is scheduled for early January.

It remains unclear what powers the new parliament will have.

In theory, it is supposed to form a 100-member assembly to write a new constitution. But the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces now ruling the country has appointed a 30-member council to oversee the process.