With the army on guard, an Egyptian election worker carries a ballot box… (Amr Nabil, Associated Press )
Reporting from Cairo —
Islamist parties have solidified their lead in Egypt's historic parliamentary elections, capturing about 70% of the seats up for grabs in the second phase of a three-part poll, according to results released Saturday by election officials and preliminary estimates by the parties.
The Muslim Brotherhood said it won about 47% of 180 seats in the second round, about the same percentage it took in the first round.
The Al Nour party, part of the more religiously conservative Salafi movement, told the Associated Press that it won 20% of the second-round vote, also matching its performance during the first phase in November.
Secular parties are believed to have garnered less than 10% during the second round of voting, which took place Dec. 14-15. Election officials said turnout was 65% in the nine provinces voting.
Some expected the Islamist parties to perform even better during the second round, when voting took place in many rural and conservative districts, where the Muslim Brotherhood is particularly popular because of its charity work.
"Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood have always maintained their popularity across Egyptian cities through a platform of social work," said Mustapha Kamel Sayyid, political science professor at American University in Cairo. "They have the funds and they are very well organized and many people in those areas have loyalty for them regardless of political considerations."
Though the results are not final, the election commission releases the names of winning candidates, allowing parties to gauge their performance. The last round of voting is scheduled for January.
The elections are Egypt's first since popular protests toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in February. Violent protests have erupted again, with at least 15 people killed and more than 800 injured in the last week.
Islamist party leaders have distanced themselves from the new protests and urged their supporters to stay away, fearing that the violence might destabilize the country and interfere with elections they are dominating.
During a news conference Saturday, the head of the election committee, Abdel Moez Ibrahim, said he hoped the ballot process would replace the need for street protests.
"After the parliament is formed there won't be a need for million-man marches because the new parliament will come through a free and fair election," he said.
Hassan is a news assistant in The Times' Cairo bureau.