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Egyptians return to polls in election runoff

Egyptians are heading to the polls in half of the country's 27 provinces to cast votes in parliamentary runoff elections. Turnout is likely to be very low, as it was in the first round.

Polling stations opened on Tuesday in just over a half of Egypt's 27 provinces for two days of runoff voting for the first round of a parliamentary election. Turnout for the first round of voting held in 14 provinces last week was put at about 26.5 percent by the electoral commission, and voters are unlikely to be more numerous this time round.

"I urge Egyptians to strongly participate in this important electionto choose their representatives," said Egypt's Prime Minister Sharif Ismail in a statement. "It's in their hands to determine the turnout."

A polling station in Cairo's western Dokki district received only 20 voters within the first hour of the election, according to a polling officer. Those who did show up were government employees, ex-servicemen, retired bureaucrats and elderly people, reported an AFP correspondent.

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More than 200 individual seats in the 596-seat assembly are at stake in the balloting, which is to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Candidates loyal to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi are

again expected to be the victors,

in the absence of any significant opposition. The main opposition gropup, the Muslim Brotherhood, has been banned from taking part for being a "terrorist group," while several secular groups are either

boycotting the poll

or lack proper representation.

Elections in the remaining 13 provinces are to be held next month, and the two-round poll - the first parliamentary election since el-Sissi, as military chief, ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in a 2013 coup - will end on December 2.

Egypt has been without a parliament since 2012, when the constitutional court declared as void the Islamist election victory that followed a popular uprising the previous year against President Hosni Mubarak.

El-Sissi has been ruling by decree since his election in 2014.

tj/kms (dpa, AFP, AP)

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