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Muslim Brotherhood Claims Another Victory in Egyptian Elections

A veiled woman casts her vote during the second day of the parliamentary run-off elections at a polling station in Cairo, December 6, 2011.

A veiled woman casts her vote during the second day of the parliamentary run-off elections at a polling station in Cairo, December 6, 2011.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood says its political party has won almost two-thirds of the parliamentary seats reserved for individual candidates in the opening rounds of the country's lower house elections.

In a statement Wednesday, the Islamist group's Freedom and Justice party says it won 36 of the 56 individual seats that were contested in nine provinces, including the two largest cities of Cairo and Alexandria. It says Freedom and Justice candidates won 34 seats in runoff elections on Monday and Tuesday after winning outright victories in two other seats in last week's first round of voting.

Official results from the runoff elections were expected by Thursday.

Previous wins

The Brotherhood's party already had won the largest share of seats reserved for parties in last week's vote, securing 37 percent of ballots in the nine provinces, compared to 24 percent for its nearest rival, the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour party. Egypt's liberal coalition was a distant third.

If confirmed, the Brotherhood's individual seat victories put the movement on track to become the leading power in the 498-member assembly.

Egypt's remaining 18 provinces will join the voting for the lower house of parliament in two stages in the coming weeks. Elections for parliament's less-powerful upper house will begin in late January and finish in March.

Cabinet announcement

In another development, Egypt's interim prime minister says he will unveil a Cabinet on Wednesday featuring a new finance minister and about a dozen incumbent ministers who will be tasked with governing the country until the end of the elections.

In a news conference Tuesday, Kamal el-Ganzouri said his new finance minister will be Mumtaz al-Saeed, a ministry veteran who faces the challenge of stabilizing an economy battered by unrest since February's ouster of autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

The military-appointed interim prime minister said he would not reveal his choice for the key post of interior minister until Wednesday's announcement of the full Cabinet line-up. Many opposition youth activists have been calling for the replacement of the incumbent interior minister Mansour al-Eissawy with a civilian who does not share Eissawy's police background.

Many Egyptians resent the interior ministry for ordering police to violently crack down on opposition protesters who forced Mubarak to step down in February and who demonstrated last month against the military council that replaced him.

Constitutional amendment

Egypt's military rulers said Tuesday they will amend the constitution to give Ganzouri more power than his predecessor Essam Sharaf, whom they appointed in March. Sharaf quit after 42 people were killed in November's confrontations between police and protesters.

But, the military council said it will retain its presidential powers over the armed forces and the judiciary.

Speaking Tuesday, Ganzouri said he will not allow security forces to use violence against any citizens, including youth activists who have been protesting his appointment outside the cabinet headquarters in Cairo. The activists oppose Ganzouri because of his ties to the Mubarak government, in which he served as prime minister in the 1990s.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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