October 21, 2015 / 6:49 PM / 2 years ago

Egypt loyalists take the lead in parliament elections

Employees count ballots after polls closed in the first phase of parliamentary elections at a voting center in Dokki, Giza governorate, Egypt, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

CAIRO (Reuters) - A political alliance loyal to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has scooped all 60 list seats up for grabs in the first round of a parliamentary election in which opposition parties were all but absent, official results showed on Wednesday.

The initial round of voting for what will be Egypt’s first parliament in three years was held on Sunday and Monday, with turnout at just over a quarter of the electorate and images of empty polling stations splashed across local media.

The vote has been hailed by Sisi as the final step in a political transition that is meant to lead Egypt to democracy but critics say it has been undermined by widespread repression.

The main opposition Muslim Brotherhood, which won almost half the seats in 2011-12, has been banned and declared a terrorist group. Thousands of its members are behind bars and its supporters boycotted the vote.

A list of socialist and liberal parties which would have therefore presented the main opposition choice on ballot papers eventually withdrew, leaving the field dominated by Sisi supporters, former apparatchiks of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, provincial notables and wealthy businessmen.

The High Election Committee announced a turnout of 26.56 percent over the two days, lower than the 2014 presidential election won by former military chief Sisi and much lower than the 2011-12 parliamentary election held just months after a popular uprising ended Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

The new parliament will comprise 568 members - 448 elected on an individual basis and 120 through winner-takes-all lists.

All but four of the 226 individual seats up for grabs in round one will be contested in run-offs between leading candidates to take place on Oct. 26-27 after none of those running clinched more than 50 percent of the vote.

Three of those four seats were won by former members of Mubarak’s ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), which was disbanded in the wake of the 2011 Tahrir Square revolt that inspired hopes of sweeping democratic and economic reform.

The fourth seat was won by a Sisi supporter.

“For the Love of Egypt”, a coalition of parties led by former intelligence officer and military general Sameh Seif Elyazal, won all 60 list-based seats contested in round one and is expected to secure the remaining 60 seats in the next voting round on Nov. 22-23.

Seif Elyazal told Reuters before the election he hoped to form a bloc with like-minded independents elected on individual tickets to lead the new chamber and would eventually seek to curb the wide-ranging powers granted it by a new constitution passed by referendum in early 2014.

Sisi removed President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 and went on to win the presidential poll a year later.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy, Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Alison Williams

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