Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood takes early vote lead


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The Independent Online

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is leading in initial, partial parliamentary election results but faces stiff competition from more hard-line Islamic groups and a liberal-secular alliance.

The trend mirrored expectations that the Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful fundamentalist group, would make the strongest showing in the first parliament elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

But it was too early to extrapolate whether their victory was bigger or smaller than expected, with counting continuing from the first round of voting, which took place on Monday and Tuesday.

The Brotherhood had the biggest share of votes in Cairo and the country's second biggest city, Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast, as well as the southern city of Luxor, Port Said on the Suez Canal, and Kafr el-Sheikh, a major city in the Nile Delta.

The Nour Party, made up of ultra-conservative Islamic Salafis, and an alliance of liberal-secular parties known as the Egyptian Bloc came next, roughly running at the same rate, election judges said. They were unable to give proportions for each faction.

The elections for the 498-seat People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, are taking place in three two-day stages, stretched out until January. In each round, part of the country votes. The areas that voted on Monday and Tuesday - nine of Egypt's 27 provinces - will determine about 30% of the seats.

The parliament that will emerge from the process will have severe limitations on it, imposed by the military, which took power after Mubarak's February 11 fall.

The ruling generals have said they will put together the new government, not parliament, and MPs will have no power to dissolve it. In theory, the parliament is tasked to elect a 100-member assembly to write the constitution. But the military has insisted that it will chose most of the assembly's members.

The Brotherhood, however, is likely to demand real powers for the parliament, possibly leading to friction with the military.