AFP explores the expected results.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamist movement banned for decades by Hosni Mubarak, has emerged from the shadows since the fall of the autocrat and has forecast its party will take at least 40 percent of the vote.
The battle for second place had been seen as between secular liberals and hardline Islamists who follow the strict Salafi brand of Islam, with local media indicating the latter might prevail in the new parliament.
"Al-Nur, the surprise of the moment," headlined the independent Al-Shorouq daily on Thursday, referring to the main party of the Salafists whose members follow a strict form of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia.
Estimates in the press indicated they would win around 20 percent of the vote when results are published later Thursday at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT) for the areas that voted on Monday and Tuesday -- about a third of all constituencies.
Millions of Egyptians embraced their new democratic freedoms in the capital Cairo and second-city Alexandria earlier this week in the first phase of multi-stage parliamentary elections.Should Egypt's Christian community be concerned about the likely results? The New York Times explores that question.
To counter the Muslim Brotherhood, St. Mark’s has encouraged its parishioners to vote for the secular Egyptian Bloc, made up of both Muslim and Christian candidates.
Bishop Danial, spiritual leader for church members in Maadi, made a special appearance at St. Mark’s on Sunday. In his sermon, after emphasizing the need to reject hatred in favor of compassion, the bishop turned to politics.
“These elections matter a lot to us,” he told the congregation. “Perhaps the situation is not as stable as we would have liked before voting, but we must participate. This is freedom and democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood, however, is very organized.”
“You can choose whomever you want,” he added, “but we have had meetings with the moderate Muslims and Christians in the Egyptian Bloc and we support these parties.”
The Egyptian Bloc is a newly formed mix of mainly three parties: the pro-business, neo-liberal Free Egyptians; the socialist Gathering party; and the Egyptian Socialist Democrats. There are smaller, Coptic parties, but for many Copts, a separation of religion and government is both in their interests as Egyptians and as Christians to defend themselves against the potential introduction of Islam into politics.
“We picked the Egyptian Bloc because it’s the most liberal group and because they are against religious parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood,” Father Ishak, a priest at St. Mark’s, said after Mass. “And if elections are free and fair, it will mean that Copts are more clearly represented and be more active in building a new Egypt.”Reuters notes that for the Muslim Brotherhood, the rise to power has taken almost a full century.