Egypt Islamists seen winning near two-thirds of seats

CAIRO Sat Jan 7, 2012 4:18pm EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - The Muslim Brotherhood said on Saturday it had won at least 41 percent of the seats in Egypt's lower house of parliament, with Islamists of various stripes occupying almost two thirds of the assembly so far.

Banned under deposed President Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood has emerged as a major winner from the uprising that toppled him, exploiting a well-organized support base in the first free legislative vote in decades.

It may be some weeks before the exact shape of the lower house is known because of various runoff votes. However, it is unlikely that their outcome will alter the dominance of the Islamists who now look set to wield major influence over the shape a new constitution to be drafted by a 100-strong body that the new assembly will pick.

The Brotherhood has promised that Egyptians of all persuasions will have their say and, while the strong Islamist performance has alarmed some Egyptians and Western governments that backed Mubarak, it is far from clear whether rival Islamists will cooperate in the new legislature.

The Brotherhood's Democratic Alliance list has won 41 percent of the seats so far, while another list led by the hardline Islamist Nour Party came second with 20 percent of the seats.

The Nour Party seeks strict application of Islamic law and the more moderate Brotherhood may seek an alliance with liberal groups to allay concerns about the prospect of an Islamist-led Egypt.

Sixty-two percent of potential voters cast their ballots in the third round of the election, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, Egypt's election commission said.

CONSTITUTION

With the elections for the lower house drawing to a close, the debate is now likely to shift to the new constitution that will replace the Mubarak-era document.

One main area of discussion will be whether there should be a dilution of presidential powers which underpinned his rule.

Those powers are now exercised by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has faced mounting criticism from activists who accuse it of seeking to hold on to power and privilege.

The military is set to rule until the end of June, by which time they say Egyptians will have elected a president to whom they will hand power.

The commission has yet to issue the official results because of the runoffs for seats being contested by individual candidates take place on January 10 and 11, and voting must be repeated in a district where the election was cancelled due to irregularities in the first round.

That leaves about 11 percent of seats in the 498-seat lower house as yet undecided, according to a chart of the new parliament posted on the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party Facebook page.

The partial results issued by the Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday suggest non-religious parties have performed poorly.

They suggested the liberal Egyptian Bloc winning 9 percent of the seats so far, the Wafd party taking 9 percent and former Mubarak loyalists taking 4 percent of the vote - a stronger performance than the Revolution Continues coalition of youth activists who won just 2 percent of the seats.

The moderate Islamist Al Wasat won 2 percent, while the rest were taken by independents.

Elections are also set to begin in the coming weeks for the upper house of parliament.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba. Created by Lin Noueihed)

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