Egyptians Vote for Upper House Amid Low Turnout

Posted January 29th, 2012 at 3:10 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Turnout was decidedly low as Egyptians voted Sunday for the upper house of parliament, with Islamist parties widely expected to build on their success from lower house elections in November, when voters turned out in record numbers.

Few voters showed up to cast their ballots at polling stations in Cairo, one of 13 provinces where the first stage of elections for the largely advisory Shura Council are taking place. A second stage will take place February 14-15.

Under the complex system adopted after former president Hosni Mubarak's ouster, two-thirds of the Shura's 180 elected members will be voted on through a party-list system, while one-third will be directly elected.

The remaining 90 will be appointed by Egypt's next president, expected to be elected in June according to a transition timetable drawn up by the military council to whom Mubarak handed power nearly a year ago.

Once the Shura Council elections are complete, both houses of parliament will be tasked with selecting a 100-member panel to draft the country's new constitution.

Islamist parties won more than 70 percent of the seats in the lower house, which began its work last week. Many Egyptians say they have tired of the long, complex election process, as continued protests and a worsening economy dampen the public mood.

Hundreds of Egyptians demanding an immediate end to military rule clashed Sunday with rivals in civilian clothes they described as “thugs” outside central Cairo's state television building.

Protesters chanted “Down with military rule!” as gunshots rang through the air, but it was not clear who was firing.

State radio said residents in a poor area near the site of the demonstration had challenged the protesters because they were disrupting shops and businesses in the area.

Protesters often say such “thugs” – usually youths in plain clothes and sometimes members of the police force – have been hired by authorities to disrupt peaceful demonstrations.