Islamists, who could have strong government roles in Egypt, also did well in Tunisia, Morocco
Salafists -- conservative, religious purists -- claim a lead
The well-entrenched, more moderate Muslim Brotherhood also claims a lead
Results from this week’s election in Egypt are expected Saturday, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said.
Voter turnout was last reported by the country’s election board at 62%, but the board said it would recalculate the figure after reporters raised questions about the number of registered voters used in the calculation, suggesting the true figure was lower.
However, Egyptians were eagerly awaiting the results, not the turnout figures, of voting that took place on Monday and Tuesday in the first election since February’s ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Those results could catapult Islamists into powerful government roles.
Al Noor Salafi, a hardline Muslim group, and the Muslim Brotherhood, a more moderate entity, have each claimed a lead in ballot counting.
If they prevail, their success would be the latest for Islamist-oriented parties in North Africa and the Middle East, where popular discontent and winds of change have swirled this year.
Moderate Islamists recently won elections in Morocco and Tunisia. Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots, easily retained power in elections there last spring. The secular government in predominantly Muslim Turkey is seen as a modern model for democracy in the region.
This week’s voting in Egypt marked the first round in a complex, multistep process that will first pick members of the lower house of Parliament.
The elections for the lower house are scheduled to take place in three stages, based on geography. The last of the three stages is set to take place in January. Upper-house elections will run between January and March.
Presidential elections will be held by June, according to the military.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 and has been building a base of support even during the Mubarak era, when it was officially banned but tolerated.
Some observers think the Brotherhood harbors an anti-Western and totalitarian agenda, even though it embraces moderation and democracy in public.
But the movement is entrenched in mainstream Egyptian politics, and its leaders do not appear to be wild-eyed fanatics. Most are highly educated – doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors and businessmen – and come from solidly middle-class backgrounds.
Al Noor Salafi is the first Salafist group to register as a political party in Egypt. Salafis are conservative, religious purists and have been accused of stoking sectarian strife against Egypt’s Christian minority and of plotting to undermine the country’s fledgling democracy.
Military leaders have said they will hand over power to a new government when one is elected, but many Egyptians say they don’t trust the council and fear the military will cling to power.
Meanwhile, Kamal Ganzouri, who last week retook the post of prime minister, which he had held from 1996 to 1999, on Thursday announced plans for a new government.
It will include two ministers who were in place before the revolution; eight to 10 ministers from the government of Esam Sharaf, who was prime minister until he and his government resigned two weeks ago; and ministers whom Ganzouri will appoint. “I seek to appoint three youths on the next Cabinet and two women,” he said.
An advisory board of 30 political figures has been created that will meet with the Supreme Council at least monthly, a spokesman for the armed forces said. Among them are presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Mohamed Selim El-Awa, the spokesman said.
Samira Said and Yasmin Amer contributed to this report.