Election ink blends with protesters’ blood in Egypt
CAIRO - Egyptians vote again on Wednesday in the run-off of a staggered parliamentary election marred by deadly clashes between protesters and security forces that have left 14 people dead in five days.
The ruling military council has repeatedly pointed to the elections, the first legislative polls since Hosni Mubarak was ousted, as proof of its intention to hand over power to civilian rule.
But the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power after the popular uprising toppled Mubarak in February, has faced growing outrage at its heavy-handed tactics against demonstrators.
Deadly clashes that erupted on Friday pitting troops and police against protesters demanding an end to military rule have piled pressure on the SCAF, with liberals and Islamists uniting to condemn its handling of the transition.
The run-off in the second round of the polls will see candidates from the two largest Islamist parties go head to head for seats in a third of the country's provinces.
The ruling military has decided on a complex election system in which voters cast ballots for party lists, which will comprise two thirds of parliament, and also for individual candidates for the remaining third of the lower house.
The run-off vote, which takes place over two days, is for individual candidates.
Islamists have already emerged as the front-runners in this election, the first step towards democratic rule since the popular uprising that ousted Mubarak in February.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said it won 39 percent of votes in the party lists, with 49 individual candidates vying for seats in Wednesday's run-off.
The Al-Nur party, which represents the more hardline brand of Salafi Islam, has claimed more than 30 percent of the votes in the lists.
In the first round of the elections which began on November 28, Islamist parties trounced their liberal rivals, securing around 65 percent of all votes cast for parties.
The Muslim Brotherhood had been widely forecast to triumph as the country's most organised political group, well known after decades of charitable work and opposition to Mubarak's 30-year regime.
But the strong showing by Salafist groups, which advocate a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, was a surprise, raising fears of a more conservative and overtly religious 498-member new parliament.