A man casts his ballot at a polling station in Hurghada, Egypt, on Oct. 24, 2020. The two-day first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections began on Saturday in 14 provinces including Giza, Alexandria, the Red Sea, Luxor and Aswan, amid tight security measures and precautions against COVID-19 pandemic. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)
CAIRO, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- The two-day first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections began on Saturday in 14 provinces including Giza, Alexandria, the Red Sea, Luxor and Aswan, amid tight security measures and precautions against COVID-19 pandemic.
About 2,163 candidates compete for 284 seats out of 568 seats in the country's House of Representatives. Half of the seats are allocated to individual candidates while the rest to party lists.
The Egyptian President will appoint 28 members according to the law, increasing the total seats of the House of Representatives to 596.
Some 33 million out of Egypt's total 63 million eligible voters are entitled to cast their votes in the first stage, which is held under full judiciary supervision with the participation of at least 11,000 judges, besides the monitoring of local and foreign media, human rights organizations and candidate representatives.
Ali Abdel-Ghany, a 32-year-old individual candidate from Giza, said he competes for a seat to represent "the voice of the youth" of his Boulak el-Dakrour neighborhood in the parliament.
"I decided to join the electoral race to be able to serve my neighborhood and my country through legislation and supervision. So far, the electoral process is going well and smooth and there are no violations," the candidate told Xinhua outside one of Giza's polling centers.
Security has been intensified around 10,240 polling stations in the 14 provinces, with the military and the interior ministry vowing to immediately interfere to stop any violations, threats or acts of aggression that would affect the electoral process.
The interior ministry's security plan includes deployment at vital institutions as well as patrols in main squares and streets to ensure the security of citizens and properties during the voting process.
Earlier in the day, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly cast his vote at one of the districts of Giza, urging all citizens to exercise their right to elect their own representatives.
Other ministers also cast their ballots on Saturday, including those of finance, electricity and social solidarity.
"Egyptian voters embody a civilized model of democracy by electing their representatives with a free will, demonstrating full awareness of the necessity of performing this national duty," Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told reporters after casting his ballot.
In the southeastern province of Red Sea, particularly in the world famous resort city of Hurghada, Abdel-Qader Mohammed, 70, arrived at the polling station minutes after it was opened, as he strongly believes that his participation will contribute to the success of the democratic process.
"The elections bring us stability and prosperity because the new members of the parliament will work hard to serve the interests of the citizens. I urge everyone to go to the ballots and cast their votes because voting is a national duty," the old man told Xinhua.
For his part, Red Sea Governor Amr Hanafy said the authorities in the province made all efforts to ensure the safety and smoothness of the voting process, whether in terms of security measure or precautions against the novel coronavirus.
"We have imposed very tight anti-coronavirus measures for the safety of voters and the staff monitoring the elections. Everyone inside the ballot center must be wearing a medical face mask and social distancing is strictly observed," the governor told reporters after inspecting one of the polling centers.
The first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections is held right after the three-day voting of expatriates in 124 countries on Oct. 21-23.
The second stage is scheduled to be held on Nov. 7-8 in the remaining 13 provinces including the capital Cairo, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai.
The result of the first stage is expected to be announced by Nov.1, according to the schedule released by the National Election Authority (NEA).
The NEA said the run-off rounds of the first stage inside the country, if any, will be held on Nov. 23-24 and those of the second on Dec. 7-8.
In August, Egyptians elected the country's first Senate with 300 members, one third of whom are appointed by the President.
The newly created Senate will be an advisory body without legislative authority. Enditem