3 Dec 2011

62% of Egyptians voted in historic election

11:45 am on 3 December 2011

Election officials in Egypt say 62% of eligible voters turned out to vote in the initial stage of the country's elections earlier this week.

They have announced the first results of the country's complex parliamentary poll for the lower house of parliament, which takes place in three stages and over three months.

But the overall picture is unclear, with most electorate candidates facing a run-off. Only four independents won seats outright.

The voting system is highly complex, with two-thirds of the 498 elected seats being decided by proportional representation and the rest by a first-past-the-post system. More than 40 political parties competed, fielding more than 10,000 candidates.

The BBC reports that leaks suggest the Muslim Brotherhood is the big winner, with its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) predicted to take about 30% of the vote.

The FJP is in a coalition with smaller parties, and overall that coalition is expected to get about 40%.

Another bloc containing the conservative Islamist al-Nur party is predicted to take some 20% of the vote, as is the liberal multi-party Egyptian Bloc.

Turnout considered impressive

The turnout figure of 62% is lower than the military leadership's estimate of 70%, but the BBC's correspondent says it is still considered impressive - considering the long queues to vote, the complicated election process, the high rate of illiteracy, and almost no election campaigning at all.

An official read out results constituency by constituency, but most candidates did not achieve the 50% required to avoid a run-off, which will take place next week.

Only a third of constituencies have voted so far; the next two stages of the poll will go on into January.