CAIRO — Egyptians voted in surprisingly large numbers Monday, looking past more than a week of violence and political unrest to show their faith that ballots cast in the first election since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak could put their country on the path to democratic rule.
The first day of Egypt's landmark parliamentary elections unfolded with few snags, even as voters overwhelmed polling stations across nine of the country's 27 provinces. State television reported that, based on early participation, authorities expected an 80 percent turnout in the areas voting Monday. The rest of the nation will vote in coming weeks.
The strong turnout and smooth voting in a country with a long history of vote-rigging and electoral violence were a boost for Egypt's military leaders, who promised a quick transition to civilian rule after they took control of the country in February but have since sent mixed signals about their commitment to a democratic transition. And the voting suggested that, despite 10 days of protests by Egyptians demanding the immediate departure of the generals, large numbers were willing to participate in a military-run transition.
"The people in Tahrir Square, yes, they are Egyptian, but they are not the only Egyptians in this country," said Sameh Seif el-Yazal, a retired general and military analyst, who argued that the ruling generals have done a good job under challenging circumstances.
By afternoon, even some of the protesters who have returned in recent days to the square in central Cairo, were leaving in shifts, taking their turns in the voting booth.
Preliminary results from Monday's vote are not expected until the second day of balloting ends today. But voters and analysts said they expect Islamist parties, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, to outperform liberal competitors.
The election for the 498-seat People's Assembly, parliament's lower chamber, will last through January, with three stages of voting. Voters will then choose the 390-seat Shura Council, the upper chamber, in three stages set to end in March.