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Egyptians to begin 3rd round of voting after weeks of unrest

By the CNN Wire Staff
January 3, 2012 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
Egyptian women gather near a polling station in Minya, during the final round of parliamentary elections on January 3, 2012.
Egyptian women gather near a polling station in Minya, during the final round of parliamentary elections on January 3, 2012.
  • Islamist parties did well in the two previous rounds of voting
  • The third round comes after weeks of sometimes deadly unrest in Cairo
  • Protesters want Egypt's ruling military to cede power to a civilian government
  • The Egyptian authorities have also carried out raids on rights groups in the country

Cairo (CNN) -- Egypt opens the third round of voting for the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday after Islamist parties performed strongly in the previous rounds last month.

The vote is the latest step in a tense and complex process meant to move Egypt toward a more representative form of government after the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in February

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has led Egypt's government since Mubarak's fall. It has said it will hand over power to a new government once one is in place.

But the transition has not been quick or transparent enough for some Egyptians. A series of protests in Cairo last month resulted in violent and sometimes deadly clashes between demonstrators and the country's armed forces.

The unrest appeared to have largely stemmed from a stretch of assaults by police and defiant protests by demonstrators demanding that Egypt's ruling military cede power to a civilian government.

Egyptian police raid NGO offices
2011: A year of protests

The authorities have also cracked down on rights groups. The police last month conducted raids on nongovernmental organizations across the country, including U.S. groups that promote democratic institutions and had delegations observing the parliamentary elections.

Egyptian authorities agreed to halt the raids and return all equipment and documents seized after protests from Washington, which provides more than $1 billion per year in military aid to Egypt.

And international election observers are continuing their operations.

The former U.S. president Jimmy Carter will visit Egypt next week to participate in the witnessing of the elections, the Carter Center said in a statement Monday. He will join a delegation of 40 witnesses from 21 countries based in Egypt since mid-November to witness the three phases of voting, according to the center.

The relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party last month won more than 4 million votes in the runoff for the second round of the process. The conservative Al Noor Salafi Party won more than 3 million. The secular Egyptian bloc won 785,000.

The second round of voting covered the regions of Giza, Luxor, Aswan and Ismailia regions, which have historically favored conservative Muslim candidates. More than 11 million voters participated.

Islamists claimed victory in the first round of elections in other parts of the country that took place earlier in December.

Final results for the lower house are expected to be announced January 12.

Meanwhile, the ruling military council brought forward the scheduled elections for the upper house of Parliament by nearly three weeks, with voting now scheduled to start in late January, the state news agency MENA reported Sunday.

Balloting will be held in two stages instead of three, first on January 29-30 and then on February 14-15, MENA said, citing a decree from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. If necessary, runoffs would be held on February 7 and 22, with a goal of having winners seated by February 28.

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