Egypt: voter turnout in 1st phase of polls hits 62%; PM starts to name cabinet

Abdul Moez Ibrahim, the head of the election committee, announced the results at a press conference in Cairo. (File photo)

Turnout in the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary election was 62 percent, the highest in Egypt’s history, Abdul Moez Ibrahim, the head of the supreme election committee, told a news conference on Friday.

“It is the highest voter turnout since the pharaohs,” he said.

Ibrahim announced the results and said that there were some irregularities that did not affect the course of voting. “We will do our best to avoid similar irregularities during the second and third phases of the elections,” he said.

Ibrahim gave a number of results for the individual contests, the vast majority of which will go into a run-off next week because no candidate gained an outright majority.

As he began to announce the party results, expected to give the broader voting trend, Ibrahim brought the press conference to an abrupt end.

“I have no more energy, I’ve run out of gas,” he told a press conference, before instructing reporters to look through the voluminous results themselves which he said would be made available.

The turnout was far higher than the 40 percent seen for a referendum on a constitutional amendment held in March.

The parliamentary election is the first since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm is expected to take the largest share of votes, followed by an ultraconservative Islamist party and a coalition of liberal parties called the Egyptian bloc.

More than 13 million voters cast ballots in Monday and Tuesday’s vote, the first of three rounds for the lower house. Three other rounds lasting until march will elect the less powerful upper house.

Naming the new cabinet

Meanwhile, Egypt’s new Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri on Friday started to name his cabinet, retaining several ministers from the previous government including the foreign affairs chief, a report said.

Ganzouri, 78, was appointed on Nov. 25 after days of deadly protests that pushed out the previous caretaker government of Essam Sharaf, who was perceived as weak in the face of the country's ruling military council.

A dozen ministers from Sharaf’s cabinet will retain their portfolios, including Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and Information Minister Osama Heikal, the official MENA news agency reported.

The final cabinet is to be announced on Saturday, according to state television.

Last week, tens of thousands of protesters had taken to the street to demand the ouster of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and to reject the new premier's appointment.

Ganzouri, who was named prime minister two days before the first round of voting in landmark parliamentary elections, insisted that he has been given full powers by the military council, according to AFP.

On Monday and Tuesday, Egyptians in one third of the country’s 27 provinces voted in the first parliamentary elections since president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.

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