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Egypt Holds First Free Election

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(RFE/RL) — Egyptians go to the polls Monday to elect the country’s first national body since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February.

Electing the 498-seat People’s Assembly, parliament’s lower chamber, will take place in three phases ending in January.

Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are expected to poll well.

The vote comes after fresh protests that cost 42 lives and forced the army council to speed up the transition to civilian rule.

However, protesters remain skeptical and analysts say a low voter turnout could fuel further demonstrations.

The head of the council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, warned he would not let “troublemakers” meddle in the vote, warning of “extremely grave” consequences if the country does not overcome its crisis.

Army council member General Mamdouh Shahin said November 27 the military will retain the right to appoint and dismiss the Cabinet even after the new legislature is elected.

Voting for both houses of parliament is scheduled to be completed in March.

At that point, parliament is expected to pick a constituent assembly to write a constitution.

That document will be put to a vote in a referendum.

A presidential election should then follow.

If all goes according to plan, the military generals could stay in power until late 2012 or early 2013.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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