By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press –
CAIRO (AP) — Sixty-two percent of eligible voters took part in the initial round of Egypt's first parliamentary elections since Hosni Mubarak's ouster, the head of the election commission said Friday, celebrating the turnout as "the highest since the time of pharaohs."
The head of the election commission, Abdel-Mooaez Ibrahim, did not announce full results for the first round of the election, which will take place in stages until March under a timeline set out by a council of military generals who took over from Mubarak in February.
Preliminary counts leaked by judges and individual political groups, however, have indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm took the largest share of votes. Following closely behind, is an ultraconservative Islamist party and a coalition of liberal parties called the Egyptian bloc, according to those unofficial counts.
That trend that if confirmed would give the religious parties a popular mandate in the struggle to win control from the ruling military and ultimately reshape a key U.S. ally.
Ibrahim only announced results for three candidates who ran as independents but did not present results for political parties who put forward slates of candidates who will fill two-thirds of seats in parliament's lower house.
More than 8 million voters cast ballots in the first round, Ibrahim told reporters.
He described difficult conditions during the vote and the count, saying judges who oversaw the process labored in a cramped, dimly lit room where "it was impossible for anyone to do his job."
But in the end, he hailed it as a victory for Egypt.
"The winner is the great Egyptian people," Ibrahim said.
The voting on Monday and Tuesday was the first of three rounds for about 30 percent of the 498 seats in the People's Assembly, parliament's lower house. Three more rounds before March will elect the less powerful upper house.
Actual results were scarce.
A third of the lower house is set aside for candidates running as independents. In the first round, only three of them won clear victories. The rest will have to enter runoff elections next week.
Calling the conference to a close, Ibrahim said, "I'm out of gas," and told reporters pressing for more information that they should get the results themselves from material distributed by the election commission.