Landmark Egypt vote nears conclusion
Cairo - Egyptians were voting on Tuesday in second-round run-offs for the third and final phase of staggered elections to choose the first parliament since mass protests ousted Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
Egypt's two main Islamist parties have scored a crushing victory in the seats declared so far, reflecting a regional trend since Arab Spring uprisings overthrew authoritarian secular regimes.
Under the complex electoral system, voters have been asked to cast three ballots - two for individual candidates and one for a party list - for the 498 elected seats in the lower house.
The run-off, which takes place over two days in the last nine of the country's 27 provinces to vote, is for individual candidates.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, the country's best organised political movement, has claimed the lead through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
It has been closely followed by Al-Nur, which represents the ultra-conservative Salafi brand of Islam, raising fears among increasingly marginalised liberals about civil liberties and religious freedom.
The election is to be re-run in several constituencies between January 14 and January 19, after complaints over the conduct of the first-round voting were upheld.
The electoral commission has yet to announce when it will publish the final results.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has repeatedly pointed to the election as proof of its intention to hand the reins to a civilian government.
But the poll has exposed a deepening rift among Egyptians. Some see the vote as the first step to democratic rule, while others say the new parliament - whose function remains unclear - leaves control in the hands of the military.
The election which kicked off on November 28 has been marred by deadly clashes between armed forces and protesters demanding the immediate ouster of the military council which has come under fire in recent months over its human rights record.