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Egypt finishes first stage parliament polls with high turnout

11-30-2011 08:27 BJT

by Li Laifang; Shaimaa Behery

CAIRO, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Egypt finished on Tuesday the first stage of the People's Assembly elections as polling booths closed at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) in nine provinces, with a generally peaceful process and a high turnout.

The vote indicated Egyptians' willingness to go on with the transition and decide the future of their country, which has undergone dramatic changes since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in February after 18 days of mass protests against his 30-year rule.

"I vote to be a part in the infrastructure of new Egypt for the present and future," Khaled Fatah, 36, told Xinhua. He said this was the first time for him to vote.

Hamed Mohammed, a police officer at a polling station in Maadi district in the capital Cairo, said that many voters came to vote for the first time in their life, which showed the changes in Egypt.

The voting time was extended two hours on Monday in order to allow more eligible voters to vote. Election officials also said such a high turnout was surprising.

But along with the voting process, one person died and 35 others were injured due to overcrowding in polling stations, the Health Ministry said. The death case was a 59-year-old who suffered a heart attack after getting out of a polling station.

The state-run Ahram newspaper estimated the turnout in the first-stage polls could exceed 70 percent. The orderly and peaceful vote has dismissed concerns after recent days of violence protests.

One week prior to the vote, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's cabinet resigned under pressure from protests which erupted in central Cairo's Tahrir Square as well as some other cities. Clashes during the protests left about 40 dead and more than 3,000 injured.

Some parties called for delaying the elections, but the military rulers insisted the elections be held on time to ensure the transitional process goes forward.

Official figures showed that the first stage has about 17 million eligible voters. Around 2,357 independent candidates will contest 57 seats, while 1,452 party candidates will compete for 112 seats. The results for the independents will be announced on Wednesday.

The People's Assembly polls are held over three stages, each with a run-off one week after the vote. The whole vote will end on Jan. 10, 2012, and the final results will be announced by Jan. 13. The to-be elected People's Assembly will be in charge of electing a 100-member constituent committee to draft the country's new constitution, which will then be put to a referendum.

The Shura Council elections will begin in late January over three stages as well, while the now ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has said a presidential election will be held before June 30 next year.

The voting, which went on smoothly, also helped restore the confidence of investors in Egypt's stocks market. The stocks plunged a lot during recent protests.

But on Monday, Egypt's bourse gained 11 billion Egyptian pounds (about 1.83 billion U.S. dollars) in the first seven minutes after opening. The major Egyptian stock index EGX30, closed Monday's session up 5.48 percent.

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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