The final stage in Egypt's first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections kicked off on Tuesday morning in nine governorates around the country. Governorates included in the third and final stage of the poll include Qalioubiya, Gharbiya, Daqahliya, Minya, Qena, North Sinai, South Sinai, Al-Wadi Al-Gedid and Marsa Matrouh.
According to observers, turnout was at moderate levels on the first day of this stage. In the governorate of Qena in Upper Egypt the participation rate was estimated at 40 per cent.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which has won the largest share of votes in the previous two stages, is contesting the third stage with 136 candidates, compared to 163 in the first stage and 141 in the second stage. However, key FJP figures are running in two governorates in this round of the poll.
North of Cairo, in the city of Qalioubiya, head of the FJP Mohamed El-Beltagy is running on the party's Democratic Alliance electoral list, whereas in Minya in Upper Egypt, Mohamed El-Katatny, the seneral secretary of the FJP, heads the party's list.
Various violations in Daqahliya were reported throughout the day. A number of polling stations in the Delta governorate were temporarily shut down, primarily to reduce tension after verbal clashes between voters and candidate supporters in front of a number of polling stations.
Reported violations from Daqahliya also include voting ballots spotted outside some polling stations, as well as a number of voters who found their deceased parents still registered on the voters list.
In Marsa Matrouh governorate, on the Mediterranean coast, an independent candidate reportedly attempted to bribe voters outside a polling station.
In the city of Qena, two families exchanged fire in a fight near a polling station in the district of El-Marashda, causing panic among voters, although the fight was not related to elections. The upper Egyptian governorate nevertheless enjoyed a noticeably high turnout among female voters.
Head of the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) Abdel-Moez Ibrahim said in a press conference on Tuesday that vote-counting for this stage will begin on Thursday evening, after the polling stations have closed.
More than 2,000 candidates are contesting the third stage of the parliamentary elections which should send 498 elected representatives to the People's Assembly.
Run-offs for the third stage will be held on 10 and 11 January. Of the 150 seats up for grabs in the final round, 50 are individual seats and 100 will go to candidates based on electoral lists.
The two leading Islamist parties – the FJP and Salafist Nour Party – have so far gained the majority of contested seats in the first two stages. A number of semi-official estimates show that the two parties have so far been able to get between 70 and 75 per cent of the total number of contested seats.
Figures cited in the media put the number of seats taken by the FJP at around 160 seats, constituting almost 50 per cent.
FJP’s official figures show that it won 163 seats in the first two stages, representing 50 per cent. While the FJP had won 87 seats or 35.9 per cent of the party-list vote in the first two stages, it had also secured 76 individual seats (36 and 40 in the first two stages respectively).
Trailing the FJP at second place is the Nour Party, which took around 72 seats or 22 per cent in the first two rounds.