Egyptians vote in upper house election

446 candidates run for 74 Shura Council seats


Egyptians were voting on Tuesday for members of parliament's upper house, in a poll marked by widespread voter apathy and accusations of irregularities from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

The Shura, a mainly advisory body, is made up of 264 members of whom 176 are directly elected and the other 88 appointed by the president. Membership is on a rotating basis, with one third of the council renewed every three years.

Polling stations opened at 8 am (0500 GMT) but two hours into voting there were no queues outside several Cairo polling centers and traffic around the city flowed normally.

The High Elections Commission overseeing the vote says 446 candidates are to run for 74 seats in 55 electoral constituencies. Fourteen candidates have already won seats, as they faced no competition.

The house is already dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party (NPD), with opposition groups standing little chance of gaining a significant number of seats.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most organized opposition group in the country, is officially banned and was fielding around a dozen candidates as independents.

The group has accused the regime of failing to keep its promise of holding free and fair elections.

Brotherhood supreme guide Mohammed Badie on Sunday condemned the "corruption and irregularities" in the run-up to the election, saying security officials had removed posters of his movement's candidates and prevented them from campaigning or meeting constituents.

Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters have been arrested in recent weeks, according to a security official.

The election comes at a time of anxiety over who will succeed President Hosni Mubarak, who turned 82 this year, after he underwent surgery in March in Germany.

Mubarak has not said whether he plans to run in next year's presidential election. But senior party members have said publicly that the NDP wants him to contest a fifth six-year term.