Egyptian voters on Monday will head for parliamentary polls that are being held following a popular revolt that brought down the former autocratic President Hosni Mubarak and led to a handover of power to an interim military council.

Elections will be held in three phases, ending with the formation of a new People’s Assembly by March 17.

On Monday, polling will take place in highly populated districts of Cairo as well as Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city. Voters will head to polling stations at a time when both cities are witnessing renewed protests calling for an end to the rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), with its head and Mubarak-era defence minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, emerging as the prime target of their attack. The protesters are demanding that instead of SCAF, a national unity government, led by civilians, with a proven track record, should lead Egypt’s transition to democracy.

On Sunday, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, expressed his readiness to head the alternative, national unity government. Members of his team said that Mr. ElBaradei will drop his aspirations to become President, following elections, probably next year, if he became the head of a fully empowered interim transitional government. A statement issued by his camp said that Mr. ElBaradei was ready not to run for the Presidency "so as to be completely neutral in the interim period". It added that “the only way out of the crisis is to form a national coalition government with full powers to manage the transitional period until presidential elections are held".

Mr. ElBaradei’s assertion followed his assessment that Egyptian youth calling for an end to military rule, have rejected SCAF’s decision of making cosmetic changes, such as the appointment of Kamal El-Ganzouri as the new Prime Minister. In response to the on-going protests, the military has also agreed to step down, provided this was in accordance with the people’s wishes, ascertained through a national referendum.

Besides, it announced that Egypt can have a new elected President by the middle of next year, advancing the timetable of a democratic transition, in line with the demands of the protesters.

Apart from the two largest cities, a large section of Egypt’s electorate of around 50 million, will also poll on Monday at Fayoum, Port Said and Luxor. The second phase of elections will begin on December 14 and the third on January 3. The session of the People’s Assembly, comprising 508 members, out of which 10 will be appointed by SCAF, is expected to commence on March 17. In parallel, Egyptian voters will also elect representatives to the Shoura Council, the Upper House, which is slated to sit in session on March 24.

In the People’s Assembly, 332 candidates, whose names will feature in party lists, will be voted through a system of proportional representation along with 166 others who will be individually elected.

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