After last week's violent clashes between protestors and security forces in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square left 41 protestors dead and over 3,000 wounded , the first elections since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and his regime began today as scheduled. According to Marc Lynch of Foreign Policy Magazine, "Egypt has gone from having no democracy at all to having the most complicated system I've ever encountered," so here's a short breakdown of what's going on.
Parliamentary elections are being held in three stages over a period of six weeks. The first stage began today and will continue tomorrow, and runoffs will be held December 5 and 6. The first round is taking place in nine out of the 27 Egyptian governorates: Cairo, Alexandria Fayyum, Assiut, Luxor, the Red Sea, Port Said, Damietta and Kafr El-Sheikh. Egyptians are voting to fill 168 seats (out of a total 498) in the first round, 56 of which will go to independents and 112 to party-based candidates.
Nearly 50 political parties and thousands of independent candidates are running in this year's parliamentary elections. The main parties are divided into four blocs:
Egyptian Bloc: alliance of liberal parties campaigning for 'civil democracy and social justice' including the Free Egyptians Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and theNational Progressive Unionist Party.
Democratic Alliance: consists of 12 parties including the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, the Ghad Party, and the Dignity Party.
Islamist Alliance: conservative bloc mostly made up of Salafi parties, including al-Nour Party.
Revolution Continues: made up of socialist and liberal parties as well as the Revolution Youth Coalition.
The second stage of elections will begin on December 14, and the third on January 3. Shura Council elections will begin on January 29 and end on March 11. Presidential elections are tentatively being held in June, according to the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces.
According to the BBC, the elections seem to be running smoothly so far with a high turnout and few security issues. Long lines and delays were reported in Cairo and Alexandria and are being attributed to administrative and logistical problems.
Here is a visual breakdown of Egypt's elections.
Photo: A man shows his ink stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Cairo. Amr Dalsh / Reuters