Egyptian voters turned out in low numbers Sunday in the first phase of parliamentary elections that are widely expected to strengthen President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's grip on power.
The long-delayed vote to fill the 596-member parliament will continue Monday in 14 of the 27 provinces where voting opened early in the day. Voting will continue November 22 and 23 elsewhere in the country. Egyptians living abroad began casting ballots Saturday.
There was no official or reliable information available on Sunday's turnout, which many pundits predicted could be as low as 10 percent.
Egypt has not had a parliament since 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically-elected legislature, which was dominated by the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of the country's former president Mohamed Morsi. Sissi, the former head of Egypt's armed forces, rose to power last year after a military coup that toppled Egypt's first freely elected civilian President Morsi in July 2013 and led to his eventual arrest. .
That brought a military-backed interim government with the promise of a new constitution and elections for a new president and parliament.
Some observers are cautioning a low turnout at the polls, based on low turnout during the 2014 presidential elections. Photo taken at polling station in Giza, Egypt, Oct. 18, 2015.
The constitution was adopted in January 2014 and Sissi won election four months later.
The new parliament will be the first elected since the 2014 adoption of a new constitution, which empowers lawmakers to impeach a president or call for early elections.
However, with most all of Egypt's political parties sidelined and three-quarters of the available parliamentary seats earmarked for independents, analysts predict the new legislature will overwhelmingly support Sissi and his secular agenda.
Under the headline "Egypt's Parliamentary Elections: Who Cares?", the website of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram said reporters found few people interested in Sunday's vote. The report cited voters "disenchanted with political talk, showing clear signs of weariness after years of incessant turmoil."
Some on Sunday said they think new lawmakers will help Sissi improve Egypt’s ailing economy.
“The country will be regulated and move into the future. It is very important to have a parliament," Ayman Bendari said.
Other voters said they hoped the new lawmakers would take steps to create jobs and provide aid for the poor.
“We want the country to better, and people live comfortably. We need jobs for our young people," Magda Abdeulsalem said.
Heather Murdock contributed to this report from Cairo. Some material for this report came from AP, AFP and Reuters.