Egyptian Bloc faces off against Islamists in next election phase
Nada Hussein Rashwan, Sunday 4 Dec 2011
Liberal coalition is readying itself for the second round of elections after a disappointing third-place showing last week

Official election results show the Egyptian Bloc, a coalition of liberal parties, came third in last week's first phase of parliamentary elections, trailing the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafist El-Nour party which took first and second places respectively.

The head of the Egyptian Higher Elections Committee, Abdel Moez Ibrahim, announced the results in a press conference Saturday evening, giving details of the exact number of votes cast for each electoral list.

Ranking third, the liberal Egyptian Bloc gathered 1,299,819 votes -- around 15 per cent of the total 8.3 million votes cast last week.

The Brotherhood's party secured over 3.5 million votes -- 40 per cent of last week's total -- while the El-Nour party took 2.3 million, or roughly 25 per cent.

Just four of a total of 56 individual seats were secured in the first round of voting, none of them by Egyptian Bloc candidates.

Nonetheless, sixteen candidates from the Bloc will contest the run-off votes on Monday 5 December in the first-phase districts, mostly against Islamist candidates.

Mohamed Abu El-Ghar, head and founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic party (ESDP) which is also part of the Bloc, said during a television appearance Saturday night that the preliminary election results were a close reflection of the country's political reality, with the FJP -- whose roots are in the veteran Muslim Brotherhood opposition -- securing the most votes, and nascent post-revolution parties faring far less well.

During the first voting phase on 28 and 29 November, officials and candidates from Egyptian Bloc parties complained of Islamist candidates performing electoral violations and directing smear campaigns against them.

Leading ESDP member Farid Zahran accused the FJP of vote-rigging and using slogans to suggest voting for a non-Islamist party was religiously forbidden.

He said Islamist parties also claimed that the Egyptian Bloc, which includes the Free Egyptian party led by Coptic business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, ws campaigning as the "Church's protectors".