Islamists compete in 2nd round of Egypt's election

By Maggie Michael

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 14 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

"Islamists are people who know God well and whatever their program or agenda, they will surely do the right thing," said Giza voter Mohammed Rida, a retired company manager.

Some worry that the competition between Islamist parties will lead to too much focus on religious issues at the expense of more pressing . Some analysts say the Salafis will pull the Muslim Brotherhood in a more conservative direction by forcing discussions of Islamic law.

Many polling stations drew lines with hundreds of people early Wednesday. Voters marked paper ballots and dipped their fingers in purple ink to prevent double voting.

Some of those worried about the growing clout of Islamists turned out to support the liberals.

"I was worried about all their statements about sex segregation, tourism and beaches," said Giza voter Omniya Fikry, referring to statements by some Islamist politicians that they will seek to ban alcohol and skimpy beachwear. Continued unrest since Mubarak's ouster has harmed tourism, a critical income generator, and some analysts are now warning the economy is near collapse.

"Tourism has already been battered and their statements are making it worse," Fikry said.

Liberal parties performed poorly in the first round, with the liberal Egyptian Bloc coming in a distant third with nine percent.

For round two, liberals have vowed to beef up their presence near voting stations to ensure that Islamist parties are not violating the legal ban on campaigning on election days.

The election commission has said that this time it will monitor polling stations for violations.

Final results for 150 seats from the first round have been announced. The second round, which ends Tuesday, will decide 180 seats in the 498-seat People's Assembly, the parliament's lower house.

The second round runs for two days through Thursday. The final stage is Jan. 3-4. Rounds are divided up by province, with nine of the 27 provinces voting in each round.

It remains unclear what powers the new parliament, expected to be seated in March, will have.

In theory, it is supposed to form a 100-member assembly to write a new constitution. But the military council that has ruled since Mubarak's fall says the parliament will not be representative of all of Egypt, and should not have sole power over the drafting of the constitution. Last week, the military appointed a 30-member council to oversee the process.

The Muslim Brotherhood has refused to participate in the council and is pushing for a stronger role for parliament.

Since taking power, the military has sought to protect and expand its special place in the Egyptian state, saying at one point that it would choose four-fifths of the members of the constitutional committee. It is also trying to protect its budget from oversight by a civilian body.

Nearly 19 million of Egypt's 50 million eligible voters can participate in the second round.

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