First round of Egyptian elections ends

Low turnout in first phase of Egypt's parliamentary elections.

The first round of Egypt's two-part parliamentary elections ended on 19 October, following two days of extremely low turnout in the staggered poll to elect a parliament after it was dissolved over three years ago.

Authorities hastily announced that state employees could have a half day on Monday 19 October, to encourage them to vote, after only two per cent of voters showed up the day before. Egypt did not release official voter numbers after the second day at the polling station although judges overseeing the ballot estimated the turnout had risen to 20 per cent.

The first round of voting covered 14 governates, including the cities of Alexandria and Giza, while the second round will cover 13 governates including Cairo, on 22-23 November.

The long-awaited parliamentary polls are the final stage in a “roadmap to democracy” announced by then army chief and now president, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, immediately after the ousting of Islamist president Mohammad Morsi in July 2013.

The elections are expected to strengthen the power of Sisi who faces little serious opposition because most of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders are now in prison, including the ex-President Morsi. Also stifling opposition parties is a new electoral law that reserves 75 per cent of seats for individual candidates without links to political groups.

The parliament comprises 568 seats, 448 of which are elected as individuals, and 120 through party lists with quotas for women and the young. The president may appoint up to 28 of his own members, or five per cent of the total.

The government says this prevents a single party, such as the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, from dominating parliament, however critics say the system favours wealthy business and media figures from the era of Hosni Mubarak whose almost 30-year regime ended in a popular uprising in 2011.

Balloting will resume on 22 November with Egypt’s remaining 13 provinces, including the capital Cairo, and final results are expected in December.