Voting in Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak continues Tuesday, after monitors reported high turnout and a peaceful atmosphere Monday.
Voters lined up for hours to take part in the polls. Many said they were voting for the first time, while others expressed hope that this election, unlike those of decades past, will count.
Thousands of Egyptian judges are monitoring the process.
The main cities of Cairo and Alexandria, as well as seven other provinces, are voting in this first round of staggered voting. A runoff for those areas will be held December 5.
The rest of Egypt’s 27 provinces will vote in two other rounds expected to conclude in early January. Elections for the upper house will then take place, ending in March, after which the assembly will write a new constitution.
The U.S. ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson, on Monday congratulated Egyptians for the elections and the high turnout, while the U.S. State Department in Washington said early reports on the first day of balloting were “quite positive.”
The influential Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement officially banned since the 1950s, is poised to win a stronger role in a country run by the military for nearly six decades as an authoritarian secular state.
But Egypt’s ruling generals have established a convoluted electoral system that many fear will result in a legislature lacking credibility. Army generals have made clear the new assembly would have no right to remove a government appointed by the ruling military council.
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The council’s head, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, defended the army’s privileged status in Egyptian society, declaring Sunday that “the position of the armed forces will remain as it is,” even after a new constitution is passed.
Tantawi said the country is at a crossroads and can choose either successful elections “leading Egypt towards safety” or face dangerous hurdles that the armed forces “will not allow.” He also warned of “extremely grave” consequences if the country’s current political turmoil does not end quickly.
Nine days of widespread clashes, with 42 people killed and more than 3,000 injured, have heightened fears of violence among supporters of rival candidates.