The first parliamentary elections in Egypt since the revolution neared conclusion as the third and final phase of voting for the People's Assembly ended Wednesday (January 4th).
Preliminary results show the Islamists winning a majority of the seats in the lower house.
The third phase of elections was held in nine provinces: Qaliubiya, North Sinai, South Sinai, Wadi al-Jadeed, Marsa Matrouh, Dakahlia, Minya, Qena and al-Gharbiya.
Egyptians cast ballots in 15,175 polling stations in the presence of judges, their staff and candidates' representatives. In the third phase, 2,754 candidates competed for 150 seats, 1,213 of whom ran for 100 party-list seats, and 1,541 candidates for 50 individual candidate seats.
Runoff elections will be held on January 10th and 11th.
The newly elected assembly is scheduled to hold its first legislative session near the end of January. Elections for the parliament's upper house, the Shura Council, will begin shortly thereafter and conclude in March. The presidential election is scheduled to be held in June.
"The third phase is special in that it involves a mixture of segments of the population that mirrors Egyptian society as a whole," said Dr. Amr Hashem Rabie, an expert at al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
He said it will be different from the previous two phases with respect to voter turnout rates and results.
He told Al-Shorfa that tribal partisanship plays a major role in all the electoral districts involved in the third phase and will influence voters who regard their candidate as being the head of the family, as opposed to Upper Egypt provinces where partisanship is rare.
Rabie also said that "rural communities, from which the majority of voters in the third phase hail, are more religiously inclined and therefore religious affiliations will have a significant impact on results".
The People's Assembly elections were held in three phases over one month and a half, with the first phase occurring on November 28th and 29th across nine provinces, and the second phase occurring on December 14th and 15th across another nine provinces.
Results from the first two phases show that the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won 157 of the total 331 contested party-list and individual candidate seats, or close to 51% of the total seats. The al-Nour Party claimed runner-up status, with 79 seats, or about 23% of the total.
The total seats won by all secular parties did not exceed 20%, with al-Wafd Party coming in third place with 27 seats, or 8.5%. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Bloc, a coalition of liberal and left-wing parties, came in fourth place with 26 party-list and individual candidate seats, with other parties and independents winning 38 seats, or 11.5% of the total.
Amendments made to the electoral law following the revolution call for two-thirds of parliament's 498 seats to be filled using the party-list system, and the remaining third using an individual candidate system. The remaining 10 seats are appointed by the president of the transitional authority.
Dr. Essam al-Erian, vice president of the Freedom and Justice Party, told Al-Shorfa that all three phases of the elections were fair, transparent, and free of fraud despite the occurrence of a few irregularities that did not affect the outcome of the elections.
With regard to his party's priorities following the elections, al-Erian said, "The Freedom and Justice Party is in the process of preparing a legislative agenda to be presented to and agreed upon by other political forces in the upcoming stage."
At the top of the new parliament's priority list is a new constitution for the country, as well as new legislation relating to the presidential elections.
Al-Erian said that the Freedom and Justice Party will do everything in its power to achieve a national consensus on all issues without excluding any political faction and regardless of whether or not the parties agree.
Dr. Emad Gad, an Egyptian Bloc candidate, said "The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the elections is due in large part to the high rate of illiteracy and ignorance among the people, as well as the spread of religion, which is in the interest of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis who have access to every home through social and economic services."
Gad told Al-Shorfa that the process of selecting the constituent committee members who will prepare the new constitution will be the first test of co-operation among the new parliament's political forces and will be a measure of their intentions.