Egypt begins long-awaited parliamentary election
CAIRO: Egypt kicked off a long-awaited parliamentary election on Sunday, the final step in a process that was meant to put the country back on a democratic course but which critics say has been undermined by state repression.
Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically-elected main chamber, then dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, reversing a key accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Then army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood the following year, banning Egypt's oldest Islamist movement and declaring it a terrorist organisation.
Sisi secured support for his move from other opposition groups by promising a prompt parliamentary vote. Those elections have been repeatedly postponed but will now take place over two rounds on Oct 18-19 and Nov 22-23.
This week, voters cast their ballots in 14 regions including Egypt's second city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast and Giza, a province which includes parts of Cairo west of the Nile.
In a televised speech on Saturday, Sisi called on all Egyptians to head to the ballot boxes and urged the armed forces and interior ministry to secure the voting process.
"I call on you all, men and women, young and old, farmers and workers from all over the country to rally for the sake of the country... and choose well," he said.