Brotherhood extends gains in Egypt polls
Cairo - Egypt's top Islamist party said on Wednesday it had extended its gains in the first elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, amid fresh warnings about the sinking economy from the country's caretaker premier.
The Muslim Brotherhood, banned for decades until the toppling of Mubarak in February, said its Freedom and Justice Party had won 36 out of 54 individual seats up for grabs in the first phase of the multi-stage parliamentary polls.
In a separate party vote, which will see more than a 100 seats distributed, it won 36.6% while the Islamic fundamentalist party Al-Nur came second with 24.4%.
The FJP's expected landslide victory in the individual seats - set to be confirmed by official results - and its pre-eminence in the party voting sets it up to become the leading power in the 498-seat new lower parliament.
"The Islamists win a crushing victory," headlined the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper.
Only one third of districts have voted so far, however, with the remainder set to head to the polls in a further two waves beginning on December 14 and in January.
Caretaker Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri, speaking late Tuesday, called on the country's political forces to pull together to help resolve the country's problems.
He singled out the faltering economy, hit by a decline in tourism and a sharp fall in investment, as well as security which he said had deteriorated since the 18-day uprising that ousted Mubarak.
"We can't leave security and the economy like this," he told a media conference.
"The political roadmap is now clear" - leading to a full transfer of control to the new civilian leaders from the army which took power after Mubarak stepped down, he added.
"I ask for all the political movements, all the parties, and every individual to come together for the good of the country," he said.
A member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) warned last week that Egypt's foreign currency reserves were falling sharply and that it might only have enough to cover imports until the end of February.
Almost two weeks since the appointment of Ganzuri as premier - widely disliked by pro-democracy activists - the 78-year-old Mubarak-era politician is yet to name a cabinet.
He said an announcement could finally come on Wednesday.
Despite his reassurances about Egypt's "roadmap," the new political leaders are expected to face a fierce power struggle with the army to ensure full powers are handed over to an elected parliament and president.
The SCAF has already indicated it wants to retain many of its privileges, including oversight over military-related legislation.
The prospect of an Islamist-dominated parliament has also raised fears among liberals about civil liberties, women's rights and religious freedom in a country with the Middle East's largest Christian minority.
The Brotherhood stressed throughout campaigning that Islamic values were compatible with democracy and that it was in favour of individual freedoms and working with other non-Islamist political parties.
But Al-Nur, a Salafist group that advocates a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia, has emerged as a powerful new influence and is expected to do well in the remaining rounds of voting.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Islamist parties on Tuesday to "embrace democratic norms and rules" and respect women's rights and free religious practice.
Presidential hopeful and former Arab League head Amr Mussa also called on them to "join this era and not disengage from it" amid fears they want to roll back the new freedoms supposedly brought by the
The victory of Islamist parties fits a pattern established in other countries affected by the pro-democracy movement known as the Arab Spring, with Islamists also winning elections in Tunisia and Morocco.
Egypt's liberal movement emerged from the party voting with 29.3% of the vote in the first round, but it is highly fragmented and split between six different coalitions.
After the voting for the lower house of parliament, which will end in January, Egyptians will then elect an upper house in a further three rounds of polls.
A committee to draft a new constitution will then get to work before presidential elections by the end of June 2012.