CAIRO The Muslim Brotherhood promised Egyptians voting in a run-off on Tuesday it would work in a broad coalition if its party wins parliamentary elections, saying it hoped to avoid a showdown with the ruling military council.
Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, whose party led the first phase of voting last week, played down suggestions that Islamists would try to dominate parliament when it gets to work after the staggered election is completed in January.
"We will not rule Egypt alone. Parliament will include all the colors of the rainbow that must agree on one direction, one goal," Badie told the private Al-Mehwar station, according to a transcript of the interview.
Parliament's popular mandate will make it difficult for the military council to ignore but the army will remain in charge until a presidential election in June, after which it has said it would hand over power to civilians.
Opponents of the Brotherhood say it will turn Egypt into an Islamic state by stealth, curbing freedoms for 80 million people who include about eight million Christian Copts.
The army, accused of guarding all the levers of power 10 months after the fall of president Hosni Mubarak, announced it would give more decision-making powers to its newly-picked prime minister.
Kamal al-Ganzouri, tasked with forming a "government of national salvation" after violent street protests last month, said the army would grant him presidential powers over everything except the judiciary and armed forces.
Badie said he did not expect the military, which has assumed the role of head of state since Mubarak's fall, to undermine the new parliament. He also dismissed prospects for a showdown with the army after the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said the new assembly should nominate the government.
"The military council is the only president in Egypt and it makes no sense for the president to be unjust, for how can a people choose a government that the military dismisses out of hand?" he said.
ISLAMIST VS ISLAMIST
Hardline Salafis were the surprise runners-up in the opening stage of the vote, the biggest test of the public mood since mass protests ended Mubarak's 30-year rule.
But the Islamists are not united and may not ally themselves in parliament, giving liberals scope to take part in a post-election government and shape the future constitution.
The Salafi al-Nour Party and the FJP were contesting about half the 52 seats up for grabs in Monday and Tuesday's run-offs where no candidate won more than 50 percent in the first round.
"There were attempts to unite, but Salafis are very difficult," said Mohamed Hussein, as he distributed leaflets for the Brotherhood's party in the port city of Alexandria.
"It is easier for me to talk with a liberal or a socialist than a Salafi," he added.
In both Alexandria and Cairo there were none of the long queues that accompanied the first round vote, with analysts seeing a sharp drop in interest by liberal or secularist voters.
"If it's a fight between Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood, they don't want either so they are not going to (vote)," said Adel Soliman of the International Centre for Future and Strategic Studies. "Enthusiasm in the election has now passed."
Independent monitors called for tighter oversight of the polling, saying multiple violations had been recorded, including the rallying of party supporters outside voting stations.
"Until now we haven't seen a positive move to limit this phenomenon," said Tarek Zaghloul, executive manager at the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, involved in monitoring.
He also noted that parties were using banned religious slogans in their campaigning and bussing voters in.
The election committee confirmed that irregularities had forced it to cancel the count in one of Cairo's four electoral districts. A new ballot will be held on January 10 and 11 with the runoffs set for January 17 and 18.
(Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan in Alexandria and Shaimaa Fayed and Edmund Blair in Cairo; Writing by Crispian Balmer; editing by David Stamp)