CAIRO — Voting in election runoffs for Egypt’s first parliament since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster resumed on Wednesday without the long lines outside polling centers seen in previous rounds of the staggered vote.
The balloting comes amid growing calls for the ruling military to step down and allow the next parliament to form a national unity government that would take over the reins of power until a new president is elected before the end of June. Another scenario being floated is for presidential elections to be brought forward to January and a handover of power to take place the following moth.
The proposals, which the military has yet to comment on, are being floated as the generals who took over after a popular uprising forced Mubarak to step down 10 months ago are coming under growing criticism for mismanaging the transition period, gross human rights abuses and failure to revive the economy or restore security.
“I know nothing about politics, but I want stability for my country,” said Fatmah Morsi as she was about to cast her ballot in Dokki, a middle-class neighborhood in Cairo. “Enough with the protests. we should give this government a chance.”
The balloting, which is taking place Wednesday and Thursday, is in the second round of the election, with voting in mostly rural areas. A third and final round is to be held in early January. The new parliament is not scheduled to be seated until March, after three rounds of voting for the legislature’s largely toothless upper chamber is also completed.
Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest and best organized political group, have dominated the vote thus far and are likely to maintain their comfortable lead.
The brutality shown by the troops to protesters calling for the country’s military rulers to immediately step down has caused an uproar in Egypt. On Tuesday, some 10,000 women marched in central Cairo, demanding the military step down and expressing their anger over the abuse of women protesters by troops during the crackdown.
The military issued a statement expressing its regret but did not apologize for the brutality, which included pulling women by their hair, beating them with truncheons and stomping on them as they lay on the ground. The image of one woman — stripped half naked by the troops, kicked and stomped on — has particularly enraged women and drawn a sharp rebuke from the United States and the United Nations.
A women-only protest is a rarity in Egypt, though tens of thousands of women took part in the wave of protests that engulfed Egypt during the 18-day, January-February uprising that toppled Mubarak. The high number of protesters Tuesday underlined the depth of anger at the abuse of women by the soldiers. Women’s modesty in public is a cornerstone of social customs in conservative Egypt.
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