CAIRO — Islamist parties captured an overwhelming majority of votes in the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections, setting up a power struggle with the much weaker liberals behind the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak 10 months ago, according to results released Sunday.
A hard-line religious group that wants to impose strict Islamic law, the Nour Party, made a strong showing with nearly a quarter of the ballots.
The tallies offer only a partial indication of how the new parliament will look. There are still two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country's 27 provinces over the coming month and runoff elections today and Tuesday to determine almost all of the seats allocated for individuals in the first round. But the grip of the Islamists over the next parliament appears set, particularly considering their popularity in provinces voting in the next rounds.
The High Election Commission said the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party garnered 36.6 percent of the 9.7 million valid ballots cast for party lists. The Nour Party captured 24.4 percent.
The Islamist showing worries liberal parties, and even some religious parties, who fear the two groups will work to push a religious agenda. It has also left many of the young activists behind the uprising feeling that their revolution has been hijacked.
Since Mubarak's fall, the groups that led the uprising and Islamists have been locked in a fight over the country's new constitution. The new parliament will be tasked, in theory, with selecting a 100-member panel to draft the new constitution. But adding to tensions, the ruling military council that took over from Mubarak has suggested it will choose 80 of those members, and said parliament will have no say in naming a new government.
"The conflict will be over the soul of Egypt," said Nabil Abdel-Fattah, a senior researcher at the state-sponsored Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, calling the new parliament "transitional" with a "very conservative Islamic" outlook.
The Brotherhood has emerged as the most organized and cohesive political force in these elections. But with no track record of governing, it is not yet clear how it will behave in power. It has positioned itself as a moderate Islamist party that wants to implement Islamic law without sacrificing personal freedoms, and has said it will not seek an alliance with the more radical Nour party.
Egypt already uses Islamic law, or sharia, as the basis for legislation. However, laws remain largely secular as sharia does not cover all aspects of modern life.