Despite three days of clashes between protesters and the security forces, which left at least 33 dead, the Egyptian authorities have announced that the parliamentary elections expected to take place in a week's time will proceed as scheduled.
The first round of elections is due to take place on November 28. It will be the first opportunity for Egyptians to vote since the fall of the Mubarak regime in February after a popular uprising.
The regime was replaced by a military council, but popular discontent has grown in recent months after the army was accused of employing the same tactics used by the previous dictatorship.
Even after a new parliament is elected, the military will still hold power until the presidential elections take place at the end of 2012 or in early 2013.
Egyptians want the establishment of a civilian government following the parliamentary elections.
Following are the key dates for the staggered lower and upper house votes, as announced by the Egyptian election committee:
LOWER HOUSE (PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY) VOTE:
November 28 - The first stage of the parliamentary elections will first take place in nine provinces, including Cairo, Port Said, Alexandria, Assiyut, Fayoum, Damietta, Kafr-El-Sheikh, Luxor and the Red Sea. If no candidate wins a clear majority, run-off votes will take place on December 5
December 14 - A second round of elections is expected to start in nine other provinces, including Beni Suef, Ismailia, Suez , Giza, Menoufiya, Beherira, Sohag and Aswan. If no candidate wins a clear majority, run-off votes will take place on December 21.
January 3 - The third and final stage of the vote for the lower house is set to take place in the last nine jurisdictions, which include al Gharbiya, Minya, Qalioubliya, Daqahliya, Matroush Qena's New Valley North and South Sinai. The run-off vote will be held on January 10.
UPPER HOUSE (SHURA ASSEMBLY) VOTE:
January 29 - The first stage of the vote for the upper house will take place in the provinces of Cairo, Port Said, Alexandria, Assiyut, Fayoum, Damietta, Kafr-El-Sheikh, Luxor and the Red Sea. The run-off vote will be on February 5.
February 14 - The second stage of the vote for the upper house is due to occur in Beni Suef, Ismailia, Suez, Giza, Menoufiya, Beherira, Sohag and Aswan. The run-off vote will be held on February 21.
March 4 - The third and final stage of the vote for the upper house will take place in al Gharbiya, Minya, Qalioubliya, Daqahliya, Matroush Qena's New Valley North and South Sinai. The run-off vote will be on March 11.
Following is a brief description of the main political alliances framing Egypt's new political landscape.
The Democratic Alliance
The Democratic Alliance started in July as a broad-based coalition of liberal, leftists and Islamist parties. When candidate registration closed on October 24, however, only three of the remaining parties left in the block were relatively well known in Egypt. Among them are the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), al Ghad al Jedid and al Karama, plus eight other small and virtually unknown parties.
The FJP, which dominates the group and is extremely popular in Egypt, remains the only Islamist party after the others joined new coalitions. Its candidates account for 70 per cent of the names on the alliance's list and 90 per cent of those running for the independent seats.
Formed on June 13 with 34 members, the Democratic Alliance was the first significant political bloc created after the revolution. It aimed to form a bloc made of parties with different orientations in an attempt to bridge the gap between Islamist and non-Islamist parties. The bloc originally comprised three ideological trends:
Islamist parties - including the FJP; the Building and Development Party, set up by al Gama'a al Islamiyya, formerly a jihadi organization that renounced violence a few years ago and has turned to electoral politics after the fall of Mubarak; and the Salafi al Asala and al Fadila parties.
Liberal secular parties - including the oldest Egyptian party, al Wafd; Ayman Nour's al Ghad al Jedid; al Karama; and al Ahrar.
Left-of-center parties - including the Nasserite Party; the Egyptian Labour Party; the Arab Socialist Party; and al Geel.
Before its fragmentation, the main contentious issue for the original members of the alliance was whether all political actors should agree on common constitutional principles before the elections. The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ) named a committee to draft a document on constitutional principles and al Azhar also published an alternative set of principles, but Islamists from the alliance rejected both documents.
In contrast, the FJP has insisted that an agreement on constitutional principles before the elections would be anti-democratic and violate the results of the February referendum that approved constitutional amendments, though not general principles.
The Democratic Alliance has called for elections to be held on schedule and in July endorsed a closed proportional list system for parties and independent candidates. Following the recent days of unrest, however, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement asking the military council to release a timetable for handing power to an elected civil authority no later than mid-2012 and to "be committed to sacking the current government that is responsible for the bloody events immediately after the parliamentary elections".
Despite the fragmentation within the coalition, the Democratic Alliance is expected to do well in the polls and its members are planning to contest all seats in the upcoming elections.
Al Ketla al Masriyya (The Egypt Bloc)
The Egypt Bloc is the main liberal alliance competing in elections. Like the Democratic Alliance, it had also fragmented by the time candidate registration closed on October 24. It is now made up of only three parties: the Free Egyptians Party, which has 50 per cent of the candidates on the lists, the Social Democratic Party, which has 40 per cent, and al Tagammu, which has 10 per cent. On October 24, the bloc announced that it will contest the elections with 233 candidates competing in 46 constituencies.
The coalition broke up after the parties failed to agree on the number of places each party would receive on the list. Some had also voiced concerns over the presence of members of the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) on the lists.
The Egypt Bloc was originally formed on August 15 and its coalition consisted of 14 liberal and leftist political parties.
The main founding members of the bloc included the National Association for Change; the Free Egyptians Party; the Democratic Front Party; the Egypt Freedom Party; al Tagammu; and the Sufi Egyptian Liberation Party, the only party in the bloc with a religious orientation.
The bloc says it want to establish a liberal democracy and universal citizenship. Despite its emphasis on a "civil state", the bloc embraces Islam within the political system. It has endorsed al Azhar's statement on constitutional principles, which declares Islam as the official religion and the main source of legislation, though it continues to maintain that it is against the transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state.
The Democratic Alliance for Egypt remains the coalition's main competitor.
Al Tahaluf al Islami (The Islamist Alliance)
The creation of the Islamist Alliance altered the political scene considerably, as many of the Islamist groups joined the Islamist Alliance. The alliance was announced on September 29 by the Salafi al Nour Party, the first Salafi party to withdraw from the Democratic Alliance after several disputes with the Muslim Brotherhood. The alliance intends to run candidates in every province in order to maximize the Salafi presence in the next parliament, enabling them to have a greater voice in drafting the next constitution.
In addition to the al Nour Party, the Alliance includes the Salafi al Asala Party and al Gama'a al Islamiyya's Building and Development Party. It has held discussions with the Salafi al Fadila and al Amal parties, as well as the conservative Islamist al Tawheed al Arabi Party, but failed to reach an agreement before the end of the candidate registration period.
The alliance's ideology is viewed as representing more ideologically conservative Islamism than the FJP and Salafi parties, which generally have a more hard-line stance regarding the peace treaty with Israel and relations with the West.
Istikmal al Thawra ("Completing the Revolution" Alliance)
The "Completing the Revolution" Alliance is the most significant new player after the Islamist Alliance and is largely composed up of former members of the Egypt Bloc. Members of the alliance, which was announced in October, include the Egypt Freedom Party, Egyptian Current Party, Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Sufi Egyptian Liberation Party, al Nahda, the Equality and Development Party, the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, the Youth Movement for Justice and Freedom, as well as the Union of Independent Farmers.
The alliance comprises many youth parties and includes socialist, liberal, and moderate Islamist parties. Both the Egypt Freedom Party and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party split off from the Egypt Bloc.
The alliance is expected to have 300 candidates in 33 electoral districts: 250 on unified electoral lists and 50 for independent seats.