|Voters were required to cast three ballots, two for individual candidates and one for a party or coalition [AFP]|
Egyptians cast final ballots on Thursday for the second day in the second round of the country’s parliamentary elections – the first since a popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February.
Small queues had formed outside polling stations which opened at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) in a third of the country’s 27 provinces, a noticeably smaller turnout than on Wednesday.
The second round of the three-stage polls took place in Giza; Beni Sueif, south of the capital; the Nile Delta provinces of Menufiya, Sharqiya and Beheira; the canal cities of Ismailiya and Suez; and the southern cities Sohag and Aswan.
Voters were required to cast three ballots, two for individual candidates and one for a party or coalition, and for the 498 elected seats in the lower house of parliament.
The ruling military council which took power when Mubarak was ousted in February will nominate a further 10 MPs.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which clinched the most seats in the opening phase through its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), was eager to sustain the momentum by urging Egyptians to turn out to vote.
However, liberal parties have accused Islamist movements of using their influence and money to continue campaigning on polling days in violation of electoral rules.
Amr Hamzawy, who won a seat in the first round with the liberal coalition, the Egyptian bloc, slammed the “continued use of religious slogans”.
In an article in the independent Al-Shorouq daily, he urged the electoral commission to “look into striking party lists and candidates who continue” to violate the rules.
Parties affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Salafi movements won 65 per cent of the vote in the first phase, trouncing liberal parties which managed 29.3 per cent.
“We tried the liberals and the secularists and they did nothing for us,” said one voter, Mohammed Rashad, on Wednesday, referring to Mubarak’s party. “The Islamists have God’s law.”
Liberal secularists who have felt elbowed out of the political process are now trying to carve out a role for themselves after the elections.
“We must anticipate in advance, we must no longer be taken by surprise by events,” said renowned painter Mohammed Abla, 58.
“The intellectuals must absolutely play a role in the drafting of the country’s constitution,” he told a meeting of artists in Cairo.
The Muslim Brotherhood have stressed its commitment to multi-party democracy, inclusiveness and civil liberties, while also advocating the application of Islamic sharia law.
Much remains unclear about how the new parliament will function and whether it will be able to resolve a standoff with the armed forces over how much power they will retain under a new constitution to be written next year.
After the voting for the lower house of parliament, which will end in January, Egyptians will then elect an upper house in a further three rounds of polls.