Islamists dominant in Egypt's elections

Updated: 2011-12-05 11:12


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CAIRO - Islamic parties have become the biggest winners in Egypt's first-round parliamentary vote, results showed on Sunday.

The Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party captured 36.6 percent of the 9.73 million valid votes, followed by the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party, which garnered 24.4 percent.

The two parties together won more than 60 percent of the vote, a strong Islamist showing that surprised secular forces in the Arab world's most populous country.

The High Election Commission said secular Egyptian Bloc came third with around 1.3 million votes, followed by the liberal Wafd Party, which got 690,000 votes. Another Islamic Wasat Party came fifth with 410,000 votes.

Only four independents secured their seats in the first-round vote. The remaining 52 seats for independents would be contested among 104 candidates in the run-off on Monday and Tuesday.

The votes could not show how many seats the parties will grab as final results of the elections, which began on November 28, will be announced in mid-January when the whole elections finish.

However, it is clear that the main competition in the run-off will be between the moderate Freedom and Justice Party and the more radical Nour Party.

The vote for Egypt's lower house was the first since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was forced out of power 10 months ago amid 18 days of anti-government mass protests. Turnout of the vote exceeded 60 percent.

The new parliament will select a committee to draft a new constitution and play a major role in shaping the country's political future.

"It is not surprising that the Muslim Brotherhood has won the highest number of votes," said Bakr Noha, political scientist at the American University in Cairo.

Since its foundation in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has gained a lot of experience and is mature, Noha told Xinhua. "It has engaged itself with programs like health and education for the people. That's why people are loyal to the group."

Noha predicted that, as the results of the first-round vote suggest, the Islamic parties would win 60 percent of the total seats.

The Muslim Brotherhood was officially banned in 1954. After the fall of Mubarak and the dissolution of the National Democratic Party, the group founded the Freedom and Justice Party as its political arm and became the best organized force in Egypt.

However, some experts have expressed their concerns over the domination of Islamic forces in the elections.

"We can't consider the results final as other stages (of the vote) have not been held," said Nabil Zaki, a researcher with the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "But we are afraid some people may be depressed by the domination of Islamic forces on the political scene, and will not vote in the coming stages."

The rise of Islamic forces also raises fears among Coptic Christians, who account for about 10 percent of the country's total population. The minority has often complained about discrimination against them and worries the domination of Islamic forces could change the country's future.

Zaki said the Salafists' doctrines might hurt tourism and banking sectors.

"I do not trust the Islamic forces concerning any promises of a moderate, civil country," he said.