Voting Underway in Egypt for Second Stage of Parliament Elections
The second stage of Egypt's month-long parliamentary elections got underway around the country on Sunday after first stage results showed small inroads by the opposition into the ruling party's vast majority.
Polling stations opened at 0600 GMT in nine of the country's 26 governorates, from Aswan in the south to the Sinai Peninsula in the north east, where 134 of parliament's 454 seats are being contested.
Fifteen opposition candidates, including seven Islamists, won seats in the first of the three stages of voting earlier this month, giving them already more seats than the 13 they had in the previous parliament.
But although several stalwarts of President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) also lost their seats, the NDP still won 118 of the 148 seats contested in the first stage.
Analysts attributed the opposition gains to the presence of members of the judiciary monitoring the voting process, which they say has encouraged voters to cast their ballots and ensured greater regularity.
But opposition supporters say that monitoring inside the polling stations has only led to intimidation outside.
One man was killed and 23 others hurt when police fired on pro-Islamist voters who rioted after alleging the police prevented them from going to polling stations in the Nile Delta town of Ashmun during the first stage.
Islamist candidates contesting their seats Sunday have also complained of foul play by the security forces, in statements faxed to AFP.
Mohammed al-Azbawi and Mahfuz Hilmi, running in Gharbiya governorate, claimed their supporters have been arrested for sticking election posters on walls and complained that they have been intimidated into not voting.
Muslim Brotherhood member Saber Zaher, running as an independent in Daqahliya governorate, meanwhile alleged that police had confiscated the identity cards of 1,500 of his supporters to prevent them from voting.
Unlike the previous elections in 1995, members of the judiciary have been required to monitor proceedings at every polling station following a ruling this year by the constitutional court.
Voting has been divided into three stages for the first time to ensure this.
More than 6,400 magistrates will be present in just over 5,000 polling booths in the nine governorates being contested on Sunday -- Damietta, Daqahliya, Gharbiya, Kafr al-Sheikh and Sharqiya in the Nile Delta; North Sinai and South Sinai; the Red Sea and Aswan in the south – CAIRO (AFP)
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