Egypt holds second round of parliamentary election

media captionEgyptian voter: "We need a balanced parliament"

Egyptians are going to the polls in the second round of elections to a new parliament - the first since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.

Voting has been relatively peaceful, with no major irregularities reported.

The first round earlier this month was dominated by Islamist parties, with the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party winning a third of vote.

They are set to consolidate their gains this week, with polling taking place in more rural and conservative areas.

The long and complex election process will not be completed until next month.

The aim is to elect a lower house of parliament, which will then appoint a 100-member committee to draft a new constitution.

Islamist divide

Under Egypt's complex electoral system, two-thirds of the 498 elected seats in the People's Assembly will be picked through proportional representation, using lists drawn up by parties and alliances.

The remaining seats are decided by a first-past-the-post-system, with individual candidates required to win more than 50% of the votes to avoid a run-off contest.

The Freedom and Justice Party won 36.6% in the first round's party-list vote, and said it had won 32 of the 56 individual seats contested, with four going to its allies.

The second round is taking place over two days in nine governorates, which include some outer districts of the capital Cairo, and more rural regions around the Nile Delta, traditionally a stronghold of Political Islam.

Just as in the first round, queues formed early at some polling stations, though one group of observers said it was limited to the governorates of Giza and Buhaira.

But unlike the previous phase, almost all polling stations opened on time, according to the Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections.

State television did report, however, that that one polling station in Giza was closed for three hours after a shoot-out between rival candidates. No-one was killed, while seven people were detained by security forces.

And in a village near the city of Suez, east of Cairo, there was a gunfight between supporters of rival Islamist candidates. One unconfirmed report said a person was seriously wounded.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says Islamist candidates are expected to build on their earlier gains, with the ultraconservative Salafist al-Nour Party forecast to do particularly well in the conservative areas. Al-Nour won 24.4% in the first round's party-list vote and five individual seats.

Secularist and liberal candidates have been trailing in third place so far.

The secular Egyptian Bloc came third in the first round with 13.4% of the vote, followed by the liberal Wafd Party with 7.1% and the moderate Islamist Wasat Party with 4.3%. The Revolution Continues, a group formed by youth activists behind the uprising that ousted Mr Mubarak in February, won 3.5%.

image captionThe election's second round is taking place over two days in nine governorates

But the divide between the Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafists is as important as that between the religious and secular parties, says our correspondent.

The Muslim Brotherhood are putting themselves forward as more moderate and pragmatic, while the more uncompromising Salafists are more in touch with the poorer sections of Egyptian society, he adds.

Last week, the Muslim Brotherhood's General Guide, Mohammed Badie, sought to reassure voters, saying he wanted to form a broad coalition.

"We will not rule Egypt alone. Parliament will include all the colours of the rainbow that must agree on one direction, one goal," he said.

Mr Mubarak stepped down in February after weeks of large-scale political protests in Cairo and across the country.

The military took over the running of the country, but it has been accused in recent months of trying to slow down the transition to civilian rule and safeguard its own interests.

Protesters angry at the slow pace of reform have taken to the streets, and last month 42 people were killed in clashes with security forces.