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Egyptian government to be announced Wednesday

Egypt's new government will be announced Wednesday, state owned al-Ahram newspaper quoted Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri as saying Saturday.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Egypt's new government will be announced Wednesday, state owned al-Ahram newspaper quoted Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri as saying Saturday.

The announcement of the government was postponed from Sunday to Wednesday, Ganzouri said, because of difficulties in appointing a new interior minister hours before the parliamentary election's first stage run-offs.

The run-offs take place over two days, starting Monday.

Earlier, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called on its rivals to accept the will of the people on Saturday after a first-round vote set its party on course to take the most seats in the country's first freely elected parliament in six decades.

Preliminary results showed the Brotherhood's liberal rivals could be pushed into third place behind ultra-conservative Salafi Islamists, mirroring the trend in other Arab countries where political systems have opened up after popular uprisings.

According to media reports, preliminary results leaked to the press showed the Muslim Brotherhood as getting 40 percent of the vote; the conservative Salafi al-Nour party getting 20 percent of the vote; the liberal and secular al-Kutla and al-Masriya parties getting 15 percent. Other moderate, secular and progressive parties followed with smaller percentages of the vote, the reportedly leaked results showed, NBC News said.

The results could not be independently confirmed.

The Brotherhood is Egypt's best-organized political group and popular among the poor for its long record of charity work. Banned but semi-tolerated under President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled on February 11 by a street revolt, the Brotherhood now wants a role in shaping the country's future.

Rivals accused the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party of using handouts of cheap food and medicine to influence voters and of breaking election rules by lobbying outside voting stations.

The Brotherhood told critics to back off and respect the result.

"We call upon everyone, and all those who associate themselves with democracy, to respect the will of the people and accept their choice," it said in a statement after the first-round vote, which drew an official turnout of 62 percent.

"Those who weren't successful ... should work hard to serve people to win their support next time," the Brotherhood added.

The world is watching the election for pointers to the future in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation and one hitherto seen as a firm U.S. ally committed to preserving its peace treaty with Israel and fighting Islamist militancy.

The Brotherhood's political opponents say it seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) on a country that also has a large Christian minority.

The movement insists it will pursue a moderate agenda if it wins power and do nothing to damage an economy reliant on millions of Western tourists.

Highest turnout 'since the Pharaohs' Abdul Moez Ibrahim, the head of the election committee, joked that the turnout was the highest in any Egyptian election "since the pharaohs." It was even greater than in the "forgeries of the past elections," he added, referring to the Mubarak era.

He said 8.3 million of 13.6 million registered voters in areas that voted in the first round had cast their ballots. Other parts of the country will vote in two more rounds, and run-offs must also be held in a six-week election process.

"The blood of martyrs has watered the tree of freedom, social justice and the rule of law. We are now reaping its first fruits," Ibrahim said in tribute to more than 850 people killed in a popular revolt that toppled Mubarak in February.

Ibrahim earlier announced the results of only a handful of clear-cut victories for individual candidates, with most going to run-offs next week, and gave no figures for party lists in the polls.

He said four candidates, two from the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and two liberals, won over 50 percent of votes for outright victory out of 56 individual seats at stake.

The FJP said 39 of its candidates would fight run-off races. The party dominates a coalition with other smaller parties. Their coalition will be contesting 45 seats.

Yousry Hamad, a senior official of the Salafi Nour Party, said 26 of its contenders were involved in run-offs, 24 of them going head-to-head with FJP candidates.

"We will go into the run-offs with all our might and there will be no deals with anyone. We will aim to do better than we have already," Nour leader Emad Abdel Ghafour told Reuters.

In Egypt's complex election process, two-thirds of the 498 seats will go proportionately to party lists, with the rest to individual candidates.

Gains for Salafi party?
The Muslim Brotherhood, banned but semi-tolerated under Mubarak, has said its FJP expects to win 43 percent of party list votes in the first stage, building on the Islamist group's decades of grassroots social and religious work.

But the Brotherhood's website also forecast that the Salafi al-Nour party would gain 30 percent of the vote, a shock for some Egyptians, especially minority Christian Copts, who fear it will try to impose strict Islamic codes on society.

Nour said Thursday it expected 20 percent of the vote.

As in Saudi Arabia, Salafis want to bar women and Christians from executive posts. They would also ban alcohol, mixed beach bathing and "un-Islamic" art and literature.

Such curbs would wreck Egypt's vital tourism industry, which employs about one in eight of the workforce.

More secular-minded Egyptian parties, some of which were only formed after Mubarak's fall, had always feared that they would not have enough time to put up a credible challenge to their experienced and better-funded Islamist rivals.

The liberal multi-party Egyptian Bloc has said it is on track to secure about a fifth of votes for party lists.

Ibrahim, the election chief, acknowledged several violations in Monday and Tuesday's voting, notably campaigning outside polling stations, long queues, failure to stamp some ballots, and late arrival of ballot papers and of a few of the supervising judges. He said these did not affect the results.

Promise of civilian rule
Egypt's ruling generals, who have promised civilian rule by July, have said they will keep powers to appoint or fire a cabinet even after an elected parliament is installed.

The United States, which still gives Egypt about $1.3 billion a year in mostly military aid, has urged the ruling generals to step aside swiftly and make way for civilian rule.

The leader of the Brotherhood's FJP appeared to set the stage for a political tussle with the military this week by saying the majority in parliament should form the government, but the party later said it was premature to discuss the issue.

The FJP says its priorities are ending corruption, reviving the economy and establishing a true democracy in Egypt.

Ever pragmatic, the Brotherhood may avoid allying with Salafis in parliament and seek more moderate coalition partners to reassure Egyptians and foreigners of its intentions.

Senior FJP official Essam el-Erian said before the vote that

Salafis, who had kept a low profile and shunned politics during Mubarak's 30-year rule, would be "a burden for any coalition."

Kamal al-Ganzouri, asked by the army to form a "national salvation government," aims to complete it soon. State television said the cabinet was still being formed, but included at least half of the outgoing team.

Protesters in Tahrir have rejected Ganzouri, 78.

"It is unacceptable that after the revolution, an old man comes and governs. We don't want the army council anymore. they should go back to barracks," said Menatallah Abdel Meguid, 24.