Egyptians on Saturday cast ballots in the first stage of the country's parliamentary election, a vote which is highly likely to produce a toothless lower chamber packed with supporters of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, reports The Associated Press.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly urged Egyptians to take part in the vote that he described as having a “democratic atmosphere,” as he cast his own ballot early in the morning in a Giza suburb.
Sisi, who led the army's overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader's rule, was then elected as president in 2014.
He swept to another four years in office against in the country’s elections in March of 2018.
Last year, Egypt's parliament overwhelmingly approved constitutional amendments allowing Sisi to stay in power until 2030.
Since coming to power in 2014, Al-Sisi has presided over a crackdown on dissent, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed and designated a terrorist organization in Egypt in December of 2013.
At times, Sisi has come under fire by human rights organizations for the crackdown. Security forces detained thousands following several street protests against corruption last year.
Polling stations closed at 9:00 p.m. local time on Saturday. They are scheduled to reopen Sunday for the second and last day of first-round voting. Some 63 million voters were eligible to vote in the two-stage election, with results announced in early December.
Only 14.23% of voters participated in the Senate election in August. The government restored the upper chamber to the country's constitution following a referendum last year that sought to extend the presidency's powers and term limits.
A total of 568 seats in the lower chamber are up for grabs in this month's parliamentary election, with over 4,000 candidates running as individuals competing for 50% of the seats.
The other 50% of seats in the House of Representatives are reserved for over 1,100 candidates running on four party lists. Al-Sisi will name 28 seats, or 5%, bringing the total number of seats in the lower chamber to 596.
The new chamber is expected to hold its inaugural session shortly after final results are announced in December.
Critics say the 596-seat legislature will be like the previous one, which was little more than a rubber stamp for Al-Sisi's policies, leaving the president with almost unchecked power.