BEIRUT

Middle East

Egypt Islamists try to hold lead in 2nd round vote

CAIRO: Egypt's rival Islamist groups sought more gains in the second round of a parliamentary election on Wednesday, with liberals also fighting for a voice in an army-led transition that began with the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt's first free election in six decades is unfolding in three stages until January. Even then, the generals who stepped in when an uprising toppled Mubarak in February will not hand power to civilians until after a presidential vote in mid-2012.

The pragmatic Muslim Brotherhood, its hardline Salafi rivals and a moderate faction won about two thirds of party-list votes in the first round. But the Brotherhood has signalled it wants a broad coalition, not a narrow Islamist front, in an assembly whose main task is to choose a body to draft a new constitution.

"This is the first time our vote counts," said Fatma Sayed, a government employee voting in Suez east of Cairo, recalling the routinely rigged elections of the 30-year Mubarak era. "We want to retain our rights."

The military will still appoint the government, but the next parliament will have legislative powers. It will also pick a 100-strong assembly to write a constitution that will define Egypt's political framework after decades of autocratic rule.

 

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