The initial stage of the first parliamentary elections held in Egypt after the January 25th Revolution concluded with Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, gaining a sizable vote lead over secular parties.
The High Elections Commission announced the results of the first stage in a press conference on Friday evening (December 2nd), indicating that the Freedom and Justice party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafist al-Noor party won nearly 60% of the votes combined in the first stage. Secular party blocs came in second place, among them the Egyptian Bloc, which comprises three parties, and the Revolution Continues Coalition.
Parliamentary elections are being held for the People's Assembly in three stages over two months, the first of which began on Monday (November 28th). The final stage will conclude on January 10th.
The first stage involved nine provinces: Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta, Fayoum, Assiut, Luxor, the Red Sea, Kafr El-Sheikh, and Port Said.
In Port Said, Freedom and Justice took 32.5% of votes, while the hard-line al-Noor party captured 20.7%, state-owned al-Ahram reported. The liberal Wafd party won 14%, while the moderate Islamist party al-Wassat recorded 12.9%
In the Red Sea district, the Brotherhood's alliance won 30%, while the Egyptian Bloc was second with 15%.
In this stage, 3,809 individual and party-list candidates competed for 168 seats, 2,357 of whom competed for 56 individual candidate seats and 1,452 competed for 112 party-list seats.
The elections are held using a mixed system that allocates two thirds of the seats to party-list candidates and one third to individual candidates. Results of the individual candidate seat races are announced at the end of each stage, while the results of the party-list races are announced at the end of the third stage. The People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, consists of 498 seats.
Only a few candidates won their seats outright. A runoff round will be held in 27 districts on December 5th and 6th for the remaining seats. The winners must take at least 50% of the votes cast. Most of the races involve Muslim Brotherhood candidates competing against candidates from other political parties and independents. No women were elected or advanced in this first round of voting.
Abdel Moess Ibrahim, Chairman of the High Elections Commission, said that the 62% voter turnout "exceeded all expectations".
Ibrahim said the total number of registered voters amounted to 13.6 million voters, 8.4 million (62%) of whom participated in the elections, the highest turnout rate in the history of Egyptian elections. Even with the "election fraud during the regime of former President Mubarak, the turnout rate never reached this level", Ibrahim said.
Dr. Abdul Ghaffar Shukr, a Popular Alliance party leader, said the Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have extensive experience in the electoral process that is superior to that of the liberals and leftists. They also have immense financial and human resources that helped them run very effective election campaigns in the nine provinces in which the first stage of the elections were held.
"The same is expected to be repeated in the second and third phase, as millions of Egyptians continue to favour the religious trend due to the failure of the liberals and leftists to promote their ideas and convince citizens that they are fit to lead post-revolution Egypt," he told Al-Shorfa.
Ali Abdel-Aal, a political analyst and specialist in Islamist groups, said that the competition in the first stage was strictly between the Islamists, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, the Islamic Group, and al-Wasat party, which has a mass following manyprovinces.
"Despite the failure of these Islamist groups to run under one electoral alliance, they all adhered to the democratic process and no conflicts or fighting erupted between them as was expected before the elections," he said.
"The questions now revolve around the predominance of Islamists in the next parliament, the shape of the new majority government they will form, and their orientations, which will translate into enforceable legal resolutions," he said.
Ahmad Fawzi, an expert with the Independent Coalition of Election Monitoring, told Al-Shorfa, "There were numerous abuses and irregularities in the election, but they do not invalidate the electoral process. This was the fairest election to take place in Egypt in 40 years."
Fawzi said that the most notable violations were exceeding the allowable campaign budget of 500,000 pounds ($833,000), of which all parties are guilty, and continuing to campaign during the voting process which is a violation of HEC rules.