Nov 28 (Reuters) - Egyptians voted in a parliamentary election on Sunday, one of three polls taking place in the Arab world’s most populous state this year and next.
This month’s election for the lower house of parliament follows a June election for the upper house. A presidential election is due next year, but no date has been set.
President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party swept the upper house vote, and it is expected to win most seats in the lower house, as it has done for decades.
Although the results will be no surprise, the process is being watched to see how much space the authorities give the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups before the presidential vote. Mubarak, 82, has not said whether he will run again and has no designated successor if he does not.
The upper house of parliament, or Shura Council, consists of 264 seats, one third of which is appointed by the president. The other two thirds are elected in two separate blocs of 88 each.
Opposition parties and independents secured just 8 of the 88 seats up for grabs in the partial election in June.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition bloc in the lower house with a fifth of seats, won no seats despite fielding 13 candidates. The group skirts a ban by running independents.
Officials put turnout at 30 percent of eligible voters, but rights groups said it was no more than half that. Turnout was low, partly because constituencies are larger than those for the lower house and because few Egyptians pay much attention to who represents them in the upper house.
The Shura Council reviews laws before handing them to the lower house, or People’s Assembly, for final approval.
As in the upper house, the majority of lower house seats are held by Mubarak’s party. In 2005, the Brotherhood secured an unprecedented 88 seats of the assembly’s 454.
Since then, the authorities have increasingly squeezed the Brotherhood out of mainstream politics, frequently detaining senior leaders and other members. As a result, the Brotherhood has said it does not expect to repeat its 2005 performance.
In the Nov. 28 vote, 508 seats will be contested and 10 will be allocated by the president. The next parliament will have more seats because 64 have been added specifically for women candidates. Women already hold some seats.
Egypt held its first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005, ending a practice of referenda for a single candidate. The 2011 vote will probably be in the second half of the year.
Mubarak, in power since 1981, won the 2005 race easily. His health has been in question since he underwent surgery in Germany in March. He has not said if he will seek another term.
Mubarak has no vice president, the post he held before he became president, and has no clearly designated successor. Most Egyptians believe that if he does not run, his son, Gamal, 46, a senior official in the NDP, is likely to do so.
Other possible successors often cited include intelligence chief Omar Suleiman or another military candidate. Every president since the king was toppled in 1952 has been a senior military officer, including Mubarak.
Former U.N. nuclear watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei has said he might run for president. But his campaign for the necessary constitutional and other political changes has fizzled.
The constitution says an independent needs support from 250 elected representatives spread across both houses of parliament and local councils. The ruling party dominates all these.
Senior members of other parties in parliament, who have held their position for at least a year, can also run. ElBaradei, however, has said he will not join an existing party.
The rules effectively exclude a run by the Brotherhood, whose leaders have said the group does not plan one anyway. (Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alistair Lyon)