, CAIRO, Jan 3 – Egyptians headed to the polls again on Wednesday in the final round of a phased election to choose the first parliament since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak in February.
Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) for a second day of voting in the Nile Delta provinces of Qaliubiya, Gharbiya and Daqahliya; the New Valley province; the southern governorates of Minya and Qena; the border province of Matruh; and in North and South Sinai.
Islamist parties scored a crushing victory in the first two phases of the polls, which began in other parts of the country on November 28, mirroring a pattern in the region since the Arab Spring uprisings overthrew authoritarian secular regimes.
The third and final two-day round of the elections got off to a sluggish start on Tuesday, with only small queues forming outside polling stations throughout the day.
Voters are required to cast three ballots — two for individual candidates and one for a party or coalition — for the 498 elected seats in the lower house of parliament.
The ruling military council which took power when Mubarak was ousted in February will nominate a further 10 MPs.
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).
But the surge of Al-Nur, which represents the ultra-conservative Salafi brand of Islam, has raised fears among increasingly marginalised liberals about civil liberties and religious freedom.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has repeatedly pointed to the elections as proof of its intention to hand the reins to a civilian government.
But the vote has exposed a deepening rift among Egyptians. Some see them 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.