Egyptians have started voting in complex elections that will take several months to complete.
The first poll beginning on Monday and Tuesday is to choose 498 members of the lower house, the People’s Assembly, who will in turn elect a 100-member committee that will write a new constitution.
At the end of January 180 members will then be elected to the upper house, the Shura Council.
40 parties are fielding 10,000 candidates between them, so electoral pacts will become crucial for any bloc to secure a majority.
Overseeing all this will be the ruling military council. The process has divided opinion in Egypt.
“Everybody must participate in these elections, whether you are for or against, I think the elections are the final solution to this crisis,” said one voter.
“We are against all decisions taken by the military council,” said another. “They must first leave the power to civilians. And after we could take the necessary political decisions.”
It will not be until at least June before the presidential election. Two probable candidates, Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa, have been holding talks with the chief of the military council, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
But hopes of political progress are still being overshadowed by the continuing protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. There are fears of a low turn out, but the military council is determined to press ahead with the elections and is urging people to take part.