Voters in Egypt's parliamentary elections are expected to mostly endorse candidates who support President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. But critics think the turnout will be lackluster due to the absence of any real opposition.
Voting got underway at 9 a.m. local time (0700 UTC) on Sunday in the first parliamentary elections since the previous assembly was dissolved in June 2012 in the midst of the country's ongoing political stalemate.
The poll to elect the 596 member lower House of Representatives, which has been delayed several times, is being staged in two phases, running from October 17 to December 2.
Critics of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who was elected following the toppling of Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, say the vote is dominated by his supporters. Most of the more than 5,000 candidates back him, which has led several opposition parties to boycott the polls.
The main parties in the race are For the Love of Egypt - a coalition of 10 liberal parties that staunchly back el-Sissi's administration - and the Egyptian Front, a secular bloc associated with the former regime of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, which also backs el-Sissi.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated the last assembly until it was dissolved by a court ruling, has been labeled a "terrorist organization" and banned from participating. The openly pro-Sissi Salafist Al-Nour party, which had backed Morsi's ouster, is the only Islamist party standing.
President's power bolstered
Four hundred and forty-eight candidates are standing as independents and 120 are running on party lists. Twenty-eight lawmakers will be presidential appointees.
About 27 million people in 14 of Egypt's 27 provinces will vote in the first phase over the next two days.
Any runoff in the first phase will be contested on October 27and 28. The second phase in the remaining provinces will start November 21, with more than 28 million eligible voters.
Analysts say most Egyptians are tired of the political turmoil since the fall of Mubarak's regime and the ouster of Morsi, who was the country's first freely elected leader.
Amid fears of a low turnout, el-Sissi, who won a landslide victory in May 2014, made a televised appeal on Saturday for Egyptians to vote.
mm/se (AFP, dpa)