Cairo, December 2 After two-day delay, Egypt announced on December 2, the results of the first phase of the country's first democratic election since the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak.
"The blood of martyrs has watered the tree of freedom, social justice and the rule of law," Abdel-Moaz Ibrahim, the head of the election commission, told a press conference cited by Reuters, in tribute to more than 850 people killed in a popular revolt that toppled Mubarak in February.
"We are now reaping its first fruits." Ibrahim announced the results of only a handful of clear-cut victories for individual candidates, with most going to run-offs next week. He said four individual candidates, two of them from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), won more than 50 percent of votes to gain outright victory out of 56 seats contested. The rest will require a run-off.
The turnout in the first phase of the polls reached 62% of eligible voters, the highest in Egypt's election history.
He acknowledged some violations during the balloting as campaigning outside polling stations, long queues, late arrival of ballot papers and a few of the supervising judges and failure to stamp some ballots. "There have been some negative observations ... in the election, but none of them affect the integrity and the fairness of the election." Ibrahim, however, gave no figures for party lists in the polls, in which Islamist parties are expected to come out on top.
In Egypt's complex election process, staggered over three phases in six weeks, two-thirds of the 498 seats up for grabs are allocated proportionately to party lists, with the rest going to individual candidates.
The Muslim Brotherhood, banned but semi-tolerated under Mubarak, says its FJP expects to win 43 percent of party list votes in the first stage, building on the Islamist group's decades of grassroots social and religious work. But the Brotherhood's website also forecast that the Salafi al-Nour party would gain 30 percent of the vote. The liberal multi-party Egyptian Bloc has said it is on track to secure about a fifth of votes for party lists. The youthful activists who launched into politics after the revolt that toppled Mubarak on February 11 made little impact in the polls.
The announcement came as protestors rallied in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to remember 42 people killed in clashes with police last month. "Without Tahrir, we wouldn't have had these elections," Mohamed Gad, in the Cairo square that was the hub of the revolt that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February, told Reuters. "God willing, the elections will succeed and the revolution will triumph."
After Friday prayers, a few thousand demonstrators rallied in Tahrir Square, the hub of the anti-Mubarak revolt, to honor the 42 "martyrs" and push demands that the army step down now. "I came to thank the youth for what they have done for the country. We have to bow to them," said Zeinab al-Ghateet, a woman in her 50s wearing an Egyptian flag around her neck.
Kamal al-Ganzouri, asked by the army to form a "national salvation government," aims to complete the task soon. Protesters in Tahrir have rejected Ganzouri, 78, saying the army must give up power and let civilians take over now. "It is unacceptable that after the revolution, an old man comes and governs. We don't want the army council anymore. They should go back to barracks," said Menatallah Abdel Meguid, 24.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the Brotherhood’s party rushed to assure Egyptians on the civil nature of the state. According to its political program, the FJP strives for a "civil state, defined as a non-military non-religious state... that respects human rights."
"The Muslim Brotherhood will never enter into a coalition that is only Islamic," said a spokesman for the movement in east Cairo, Salah Abdel Raouf. He added that liberal non-religious groups were already part of its coalition, which consists of 11 parties. The FJP has already said it expects to be asked to form a new government to replace one appointed by the military, if it emerges as expected as the biggest power in the parliament. "We don't want any confrontations with the military council, but we are also not willing to give up the demands of the revolution," said Abdel Raouf.
"The majority in parliament has the right to form a government." The Brotherhood was the only party that seriously challenged Mubarak's National Democratic Party at the polls, mobilizing a dedicated support base that would brave beatings and tear gas to vote.
Established in 1928 in Egypt, the Brotherhood has an overwhelmingly lay leadership of professionals with modern educations -- engineers, doctors, lawyers, academics and teachers. The core membership is middle-class or lower middle-class.