MANSOURA: The third and final round of parliamentary elections kicked off on Tuesday, as Islamists maintained their lead in the Delta province of Daqahleya.
The turnout was low in the morning but voters flocked to the polling stations by the afternoon, with judges describing the turnout as "above average."
Daqahleya is the largest of nine provinces voting in the third round of the elections, accounting for around 4 million voters out of a total of 14 million.
There are 36 seats up for grabs in Daqahleya including 24 allocated to closed party lists and 12 to single-winner seats.
Daqahleya is divided into three constituencies for the party lists system and five constituencies for the individual candidates system. Each party list consists of eight candidates.
In Daqahleya’s first constituency only, 14 party lists competed over eight seats, while 87 candidates competed for the two individual seats.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), is fielding 35 individual candidates in Daqahleya and a total of 136 candidates in the third round, a number significantly less than the 163 and 141 candidates that ran in the first and second rounds.
FJP spokesperson in Daqahleya Mohamed Yousef said that the Brotherhood reduced the number of its fielded candidates to give an opportunity for independent candidates to win some seats.
"It’s about sharing and cooperating, not dominating all the seats in the People’s Assembly (PA)," Yousef told Daily News Egypt.
The fierce competition between the FJP and the Salafi Al-Nour Party was apparent.
"When the country follows the path of religion, this is a good thing that will please God," Wafaa Ahmed, 38, who voted for the FJP, told DNE.
Ezzat Hashem, 56, echoed Ahmed’s opinion, describing the Brotherhood as an "experienced" party in politics and social work.
He added that the idea of voting for a liberal party was out of the question.
"I’m a religious man and the idea of giving these people my vote is completely unacceptable,” he said.
While some described Al-Nour Party as "too extreme and strict" in applying Islamic Sharia, others believed Al-Nour embodied true Islam.
"The Brotherhood doesn’t apply their slogan ‘Islam is the solution,’ but I believe Al-Nour Party will," said Mohamed Ahmed, 35.
"By applying this, Egypt will blossom and turn into the state it was under Caliph Omar Ibn El-Khattab," he added.
Sameh Abdel Salam, 23, disagreed saying that Al-Nour’s strict interpretation of Islam wouldn’t sit well with moderate Egyptians.
"Egypt isn’t ready for that kind of extremism which forces women to dress and act in a certain way," he said.
Youssef maintained that the Al-Nour was the FJP’s main competitor in Daqahleya, followed by Al-Wafd, the Revolution Continues and the Egyptian Bloc.
The fact that Secretary General of Al-Wafd Party Fouad Badrawy is leading his party’s list in the first constituency in Daqahleya boosted the party’s popularity in the province.
"Al-Wafd Party has deep roots in Daqahleya represented in Badrawy and Fouad Serag El-Din [founder of the party] who maintain strong links with the people,” said Margaret Azer, member of Al-Wafd’s Higher Committee.
On its part, the Egyptian Bloc too claimed they are popular in Daqahleya.
"A lot of people are voting for the Egyptian Bloc in the third round after the Islamists swept the polls in the first two rounds to balance the parliament," said Mohamed Sallam, who tops the Bloc’s list in the first constituency in Daqahleya.
Several voters interviewed by DNE said they voted for the Revolution Continues, so the Islamists wouldn’t monopolize parliament.
“The FJP is going to win the majority whether I vote for them or not, we need to balance the votes and give them to more liberal parties," said Maurice Aziz, 65, who voted for the Revolution Continues.
"I refuse the idea of a single party or movement monopolizing parliament no matter who this party is, because then we’re just repeating the legacy of the fallen National Democratic Party (NDP) which dominated parliament for decades," said Iman Aboul Eit, head of the Egyptian Coalition for Daqahleya Lawyers.
Others said the fact that Dr. Mohamed Ghoneim, prominent liver transplant doctor, was leading the Revolution Continues list, earned them many votes.
"I know Ghoneim as a respectable man who serves the people and that encouraged me to vote for the Revolution Continues," said Abir Ahmed, 41.
Daqahleya also includes controversial and outspoken candidates Tawfiq Okasha, owner and manager of Al-Fara’een channel and Mubarak loyalist, as well as former judge and lawyer Mortada Mansour.
Okasha tops the list of the Egyptian Nationalist Party, an offshoot of the now disbanded NDP. Many of the voters said he lacked popularity in the governorate, because he craved media attention rather than worked to serve the people.
"Okasha has mental issues, we want someone who is pious and wise to represent us in parliament, not a drama queen," said Suzanne Ali, 60.
On the other hand, Aya Ibrahim, 20, passionately defended Okasha.
"I can’t understand how all these people can insult Okasha when he’s the one who wants the best for Egypt, and all the others want to vandalize it," Ibrahim said.
"He revealed the truth by exposing all the spies and those working for Israeli and American agendas including the April 6 Youth Movement," she added.
On his part, Mansour is contesting an single-winner seat in the fifth constituency. His son ran unsuccessfully in the second round in Giza.
Mansour and his son Ahmed are currently on trial alongside 24 former officials and MPs, for inciting attacks aimed at terrorizing peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square on Feb. 2 using horses and camels.
The trial has been adjourned to Jan.14 to look into Mansour’s request to change the presiding judge in the case.
"Being on trial doesn’t deny a citizen his right to run in the elections, as long as no final verdict has been issued against him, he’s considered eligible," said Youssef.
Several parties accused each other of violations, including distributing flyers and influencing voters inside and outside polling stations.
The FJP accused Al-Wafd candidate Ahmed Shebly of hiring thugs who prevented the representatives of other parties and voters from entering polling stations in Gamaleyya district in the second constituency.
However Wafiq El-Ghitany, leading member of Al-Wafd Party, denied the accusations making counter accusations of his own, accusing the FJP of including many former NDP members on their party lists.
"We only had five former NDP candidates in the first two rounds and they had left the NDP long before Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and we announced their names unlike the Brotherhood," he said.
The FJP also accused one of the supporters of Al-Nour of attacking one of their own supporters Mostafa Nassar in Mit Selsil district. Nassar was taken to the ICU and is in critical condition.