Polls open in second round of Egyptian parliamentary vote

Voters in nine provinces headed to polling stations Sunday in the second round of Egypt's parliamentary election, balloting that so far has produced a surprisingly strong showing for candidates of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

There are 1,706 candidates competing in 72 constituencies in the nine second-round provinces. As polling places opened, there were early complaints of irregularities.

In Port Said, at the Mediterranean end of the Suez Canal, Mustafa Saber, a poll monitor from the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, said he was prevented from entering the polling place at el-Sabahiya school south of the city.

He said there were about 150 police at the station and only voters supporting President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party were being allowed in.

Candidates associated with the Brotherhood, banned in 1954 after trying to assassinate President Gamel Abdel Nasser, won 34 seats in the first round of the elections on Nov. 9, more than doubling its representation in the outgoing parliament.

While prohibited from formally becoming a political party, the Brotherhood fields candidates as nominal independents. The candidates sympathies for the banned organization, however, are widely known to the electorate.

The NDP garnered 112 seats in the first round. All 454 places in the parliament are up for election in the three-stage process that concludes Dec. 1.

The Brotherhood calls for implementing Islamic law but is vague about what that means. It advocates the veil for women and campaigns against perceived immorality in the media. But the group insists it represents a more moderate face of Islam than that followed in deeply conservative Saudi Arabia, AP reported. V.A.