The Muslim Brotherhood worked to stretch its lead Tuesday as Egyptians returned to the polls in the final phase of the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak and prosecutors asked a court to deliver “the harshest penalty” against him. As the polls opened, some analysts suggested that the party founded by the Brotherhood, Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group and best-organized political force, could come away with a clean majority of the seats in the full Parliament instead of the plurality indicated by previous results.
Some estimates indicated that the Brotherhood’s party, Freedom and Justice, started the day with nearly 50 percent of the seats awarded in the first two rounds of the vote. It won roughly 40 percent of the seats allocated by party voting, and a higher percentage of the seats contested by individual candidates. And the final nine governorates voting on Tuesday included the historic Brotherhood strongholds of Gharbiya and Daqahliyya in the Delta, where a number of the group’s best known candidates are running, including the former member of Parliament Mohamed Beltaggi.
Final results remain uncertain, in part because Egypt’s military rulers have yet to spell out the formula that will be used to allocate seats among parties according to their share of the vote.
In an interview Tuesday, Essam el-Erian, a Freedom and Justice leader who was elected to parliament from Giza, said he still doubted the party would win more than half the seats. “Nothing is impossible but it would be very difficult,” he said.
Still, the Brotherhood has played down its electoral strength before. In the weeks after Mr. Mubarak’s exit last February its leaders suggested that the Brotherhood would seek only a third of the seats in the next Parliament and it is not contesting most of them and expecting to win at least 40 percent.