Egyptians vote in 2nd stage of parliamentary elections

Cairo: Egyptians in nearly half the country, including the capital Cairo, were voting today in the second stage of parliamentary elections that will produce the country’s first legislature since a chamber dominated by Islamists was dissolved by a court ruling in 2012.

Tens of thousands of troops and policemen were deployed to safeguard the two-day vote, reflecting growing security concerns less than a month after a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.

Russia has said the crash was caused by an onboard bomb, and a local Islamic State affiliate has claimed the Oct. 31 attack.

The attack led Russia to suspend flights to and from Egypt and Britain to cancel flights to and from the popular Sharm el-Sheikh resort, where the flight originated, dealing a major blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, which was already hurting from years of unrest.

The new, 596-seat legislature is due to hold its inaugural session next month after a runoff is held in early December. Egyptians voted last month in 14 provinces, the vote’s first phase, with a turnout of nearly 27 per cent.

That was the lowest turnout in any vote, except one for a toothless upper chamber in 2012, since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in a 2011 popular uprising.

Turnout in the second phase is not likely to be much higher given the widespread apathy over the political process under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a career army officer who led the military’s ouster of Egypt’s first freely elected leader, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, in 2013, amid a wave of mass demonstrations against his rule.

El-Sissi was elected last year. Since Morsi’s ouster, authorities have launched an all-out crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, his now-banned Islamist group, jailing thousands and killing hundreds in street clashes with security forces.

The young liberal and pro-democracy activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising have also been swept up in the crackdown, with authorities detaining dozens of them, mostly for breaching a law adopted in November 2013 that effectively bans street demonstrations.

With street politics eradicated and severe restrictions placed on the public sphere, political apathy has become widespread.