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Egypt votes in final round of parliamentary elections

Almost half of Egypt, including the capital Cairo, was voting on Sunday in the second stage of parliamentary elections. The vote will produce the country's first legislature since the chamber was dissolved in 2012

Tens of thousands of police and military personnel were deployed to ensure safety during the two-day vote, reflecting growing security concerns - but, polling stations were all but empty on Sunday.

One polling station supervisor said he had "hardly seen five voters," in the first 75 minutes of ballot booths opening. DW's Naomi Conrad reported similar scenes at a polling station in Cairo.

This election is the first since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, as head of the armed forces, ousted democratically elected Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Since Morsi's ouster, authorities have cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood group, jailing thousands and killing hundreds in street clashes with security forces.

Half of Egypt's provinces are voting Sunday and Monday, with results from the two-day ballot expected to produce a legislative largely loyal to el-Sissi.

'We're with the president'

Many of the parliamentary candidates are either member of alliances backing el-Sissi or independents, primarily businessmen and local power brokers, many of whom served in the assembly during longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak's reign. No candidates from opposition parties have been put forward.

Since assuming office 17 months ago el-Sissi has run the country with minimal checks and balances, decreeing around 300 laws, including key legislation on political rights and a terror law aimed at restricting the media.

"We're with the president. We have hope because he's…working, and we trust him," Hala Shereef, a 50-year-old engineer and mother of three, told the Associated Press after casting her ballot in an upmarket Cairo neighborhood on Sunday.

The first phase of voting was held in the rest of the country last month and saw el-Sissi's For the Love of Egypt electoral alliance make a clean sweep of the 60-seat ballot.

The first phase had a turnout of close to 27 percent, with turnout this time not expected to be much higher given widespread apathy over the political process under the president.

The Free Egyptians Party, a center-right group founded by Christian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, is the best-placed political party. The party, which supports el-Sissi, won 36 of the 226 seats contested in local constituencies in the first round.

Tourism suffers after attack

The second and final round of elections comes less than a month after a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Moscow says the crash was due to an onboard bomb, with a local affiliate of "Islamic State" (IS) claiming responsibility for the October 31 attack.

Russia has since suspended flights to and from Egypt, and Britain has cancelled flights to and from the popular resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the flight departed. The tragedy has been a major blow to Egypt's tourism industry, which has been threatened by years of unrest across the country.

Egypt has been without a parliament since the middle of 2012, when the country's highest court invalidated the Islamist-led legislature, saying it had been fraudulently elected.

jlw/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)