Egypt to hold parliamentary vote in 3 stages

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Parliamentary elections to smooth Egypt’s transition from military to civilian rule will take place in stages to make it easier for monitors to oversee voting, said an army general.

Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) crushed opponents in routinely rigged votes before he was ousted as president in February. A blatantly manipulated election in November helped fuel the uprising that toppled him.

The new elections will take place over one month, with voting on different days in three regions, General Mamdouh Shaheen told reporters. Exact dates will be announced by the military after September 18, he said.

Shaheen said staggering the vote would ensure that judges could monitor polling thoroughly. Voters will cast ballots for both lower and upper houses at the same time and the elections will be held in 120 voting districts, Reuters reports.
“The army’s role during the elections will be to provide security only. Only the judiciary will monitor,” Shaheen said.

The rules signal a return to the kind of judicial supervision used for elections in 2005, which brought the opposition Muslim Brotherhood its first seats in parliament.

Mubarak replaced that with supervision by a central committee that rights groups said failed to prevent widespread rigging.

The Islamist group withdrew from November’s election after the first round, complaining of ballot stuffing, thuggery and bribery by Mubarak’s allies. It had fielded candidates as independents to get round a ban on religious parties.
“This is a good step. It’s a positive guarantee for judicial supervision,” said political scientist Mustapha al-Sayyid. “Holding elections over three stages allows the judges to be present.
“Parliamentary elections in 2005 were the first to be held under judicial supervision and those were the elections that led to the Muslim Brotherhood coming into parliament.”

Unofficial campaigning has already begun, with an array of secular and left-wing groups vying with resurgent Islamists for the political terrain opened up by the dissolution of Mubarak’s behemoth NDP.

Shaheen confirmed the vote would be split between a proportional system of party lists and geographical seats, with half of the 504 seats in the lower house assigned to each.

That could make it harder for any one group to secure a clear majority and may dampen challenges for the presidency, to be decided in a vote later in the year.

The army has pledged to hand power back to civilians after the elections, which were originally set to take place in September but could now happen as late as November.