Egyptians voted in the third round of parliamentary elections today as prosecutors began their case in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak by describing him as a “tyrant” responsible for violence and oppression.
The final stage of the vote, the first since Mubarak was ousted in February, covers nine provinces including the North and South Sinai governorates. Islamist groups are expected to consolidate the gains they made in earlier rounds, in which the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party took the lead ahead of the more conservative Nour party, which represents Salafi Muslims.
“The third phase will not change much the nature of the upcoming parliament,” Nabil Abdel Fattah, director of the Al-Ahram Center for Social and Historic Studies in Cairo, said in a telephone interview. “It will likely underline the control of Islamists.”
The election and Mubarak’s trial, which resumed last week after a two-month hiatus, take place amid growing opposition to the ruling generals, who say they won’t cede power before presidential elections are held by the end of June. It’s unclear what powers the elected assembly, due to hold its first session on Jan. 23, will have and how a new government will be formed.
Clashes in Cairo last month between security forces and demonstrators calling for an earlier end to military rule left at least 17 people dead. Protesters are preparing to take to the streets on Jan. 25 to mark the anniversary of the mass rallies that drove Mubarak from power.
“The new parliament will witness political struggles between the military council, the Brotherhood and Salafis, and the revolutionary forces,” said Abdel Fattah.
Economic growth has slowed as the unrest deters tourists and investors. Foreign-currency reserves declined by 44 percent to $20.2 billion in the first 11 months of 2011. The benchmark EGX 30 stock index lost 49 percent last year, making it the third-worst performer among world markets tracked by Bloomberg.
About 14 million voters are eligible to vote in this round, and 150 parliamentary seats are up for grabs. In Minya, one of the provinces where balloting is being held today, Mina Magdy, a Christian, said gains by Islamists in previous rounds encouraged him to vote for the secular Egyptian Bloc alliance.
“We’re trying to balance things out,” he said. “We want more liberals in parliament.”
The court trying Mubarak adjourned until tomorrow, state television reported. It showed Mubarak carried on a gurney to and from the makeshift courtroom in a police academy.
‘Oppression and Violence’
Prosecutor Moustafa Soliman told the court Mubarak was a “tyrant” who sought to install his son, Gamal, in his place, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. His trial is a reminder to future rulers that they will be held accountable for breaking the law, the prosecutor said.
Mubarak allowed former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli to “practice oppression and violence against Egyptians so he could remain in office,” Soliman said, according to MENA. Police seeking to block protesters from reaching Cairo’s Tahrir Square targeted their heads and chests, and some were run over by police vehicles, he said.
Prosecution arguments against the former president, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption and conspiring to kill protesters, will continue over the next two days, state television said. At least 846 people were killed during the revolt.
Gamal Mubarak and the former president’s other son, Alaa, are facing corruption charges, and el-Adli and six of his aides are also on trial.