Cairo: A historic 62 percent of the Egyptian voters turned out to cast their ballot in the first round of the parliamentary election, a turnout described as the highest "since pharaonic times" by election authorities.
The Election Commission announced the final figure today for voting in a third of the country's provinces, that was less than an earlier estimate of 70 percent, yet highest in Egyptian history.
"This is the highest turnout in Egypt's history since pharaonic times until now," Abdel Moez Ibrahim, the head of Egypt's Elections High Commission, said.
The figure means over 13 million voters voted in two days of polling held on Monday and Tuesday in crucial cities of Cairo, Alexandria and others, the first of three rounds of polls for the lower house of the parliament.
Nine of the country's 27 provinces went to polls in the first round. Three other rounds lasting until March will elect the less powerful upper house.
The elections are set to propel the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) as the biggest bloc in the parliament while the radical Salafists' Al-Nour party is also expected to make an impact, according to estimates by the parties and non-official sources.
The high turnout led to the announcement being delayed twice as election workers needed more time to count all the ballots, Al Jazeera quoted officials as saying.
Egypt's ultraconservative Islamist party plans to push for a stricter religious code in Egypt after claiming surprisingly strong gains in the first round of parliamentary elections, a spokesman said today.
Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Salafists appear to have taken a strong majority of seats in the first round of Egypt's first parliamentary vote since Hosni Mubarak's ouster, a trend that if confirmed would give the religious parties a popular mandate in the struggle to win control from the ruling military and ultimately reshape a key US ally.
Spokesman Yousseri Hamad says the Salafi Nour party expects to get 30 percent of the vote. Their party appeared to lead the polls in the Nile Delta province of Kafr el-Sheik, in the rural area of Fayoum, which is known for high rates of illiteracy and poverty, and in parts of their longtime stronghold of Alexandria.
Hamad also said the party faced its toughest challenge in Cairo because of the small presence of Salafi supporters there.
The strong showing would put them in a position to influence policy, although it's unclear how much power the new parliament will have with the ruling generals still in power.
For example, the military, which is not keen to see Egypt delivered to radical Islamists, maintains that it — not the largest bloc in parliament — will choose the next Cabinet. It is also poised to closely oversee the drafting of a new constitution.
The Nour Party's purist pursuit of strict Shariah, or Islamic law, would also face tough opposition from a diverse array of youth activists in the streets, Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, as well as liberal and secular political parties pushing for more social and political freedoms — perhaps forcing it to veer less toward the large role that religion plays in Saudi Arabia.
The Nour Party is the main political arm of the hard-line Salafi movement, which was inspired by the Saudi-style Wahhabi school of thought.
Updated Date: Dec 03, 2011 09:05:35 IST