REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- The Muslim Brotherhood, expected to dominate the final round of Egyptian parliamentary elections, called Wednesday for unity with other political parties in ushering in a new political era to replace the police state of deposed President Hosni Mubarak.
Wednesday's voting ended two days of balloting marking the first fully free and fair elections in Egypt since 1952. Official results will be announced next week.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party captured 40% of the vote in the first two rounds. The Brotherhood was trailed by ultraconservative Salafi Islamists of the Al Nour party, giving Islamist groups an estimated 65% of the vote. Some analysts suggested the Brotherhood itself may win an outright majority.
Secularists and activists worried over the prospect of Islamists controlling parliament. Liberals fear the Brotherhood would tilt the constitution too close to Sharia law, with potential repercussions including the banning of alcohol and bikinis at resorts that could damage an already reeling tourism industry.
Mohamed Morsi, secretary general of the Freedom and Justice Party, attempted to allay such concerns by promising that the Brotherhood would work with all parties.
The Brotherhood's possible "winning of the majority in the new parliament does not mean going it alone in writing the constitution without consideration for the rights of other Egyptians, or ignoring" other political voices, Morsi was quoted as saying by the Brotherhood’s official website. “All political forces and intellectuals in Egypt, regardless of their political and religious allegiances, will take part in writing the constitution.”
The constitutional decree issued by the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces last March holds that the constitutional committee be made up of 100 members of parliament. Some activists have suggested a possible deal between the Brotherhood and the military that amounted to the Islamists not protesting against the army late last year in exchange for early elections that would allow the Brotherhood to dominate.
The Brotherhood did not order its members to demonstrate in Tahrir Square during large rallies in November and December that led to the deaths of 50 people during between protesters and security forces. The Brotherhood was criticized by activists for putting its political ambitions ahead of the interests of the country by not working to overthrow the military.
The Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie has repeatedly denied any agreement between the army and the group. The Brotherhood is likely to clash with the army over a number of issues after the parliament is seated. Showdowns with the military rulers are expected over the writing of the constitution and the future of the army-appointed interim government.
-- Amro Hassan
Photo: A queue of voters outside a polling station in Qalyubiyah, Egypt, on Tuesday. Credit: Mohammed Asad / Associated Press