US embassy in Cairo
US embassy in Cairo Israel news photo: US

U.S. Ambassador to Cairo Anne W. Patterson congratulated Egypt on what seemed to be a significant and respectable turnout in its first parliamentary election since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Britain called the vote a "milestone" in the history of the nation, as Western nations held their breath, hoping that last week's bloody clashes between police and thousands of protesters would not return to mar the day's voting.

Though the Tahrir Square protests did not materialize, nevertheless the polls did not go entirely unmarked.

A number of judges who were monitoring the election process were taken hostage in polling stations by voters who were angry at delays in receiving their ballots, the Egyptian Al Ahram daily newspaper reported.

"Violence was barely seen," was the way the paper described the first day of the three parliamentary polls that are to be scheduled, "but there were other violations, many of which were linked to the Muslim Brotherhood."

Widely regarded as Egyptians' first experience of democracy, long lines of voters were seen everywhere as the voting process lasted, "at least theoretically," for more than 12 hours, wrote Ahram Online.

As a sample of some of the disorganization, peripheral polling stations in the Ain Shams district of Cairo had yet to take delivery of ballot papers with less than half an hour to go before voting was to have finished --- and with voters still stubbornly waiting to vote, but running out of patience.

The Muslim Brotherhood was accused of breaking electoral laws repeatedly in numerous ways throughout the day, through illegal leafleting, campaigning before polling stations, using microphones to call on people to vote for their candidates, and more.

Thuggery, one of the hallmarks of the 2010 elections and an element that contributed to the igniting of the Tahrir Square Revolution on January 25, was greatly reduced this time around, although not entirely eradicated.

The now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) headed by former President Hosni Mubarak reportedly had eliminated almost all opposition in that election simply by threatening the welfare of voters who supported the wrong side. It is not yet clear whether the same strategy will have worked for the Muslim Brotherhood by the end of the three-round parliamentary polls.

The Egyptian Coalition for Electoral Observation said in an official statement that it "found thuggish acts in some voting stations," and at some locations, "thugs prevented people from reaching the polling stations" at a number of other locations. "The civil society organisations' observers were prevented from reaching the voting stations, too," read the statement.

Results have not yet been tabulated.

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