[This is a syndicated post from the blog: Egypt.]
(Reuters) - Egyptians start voting on November 28 in their first free parliamentary election in decades after a popular uprising ended President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule in February.
Below are some questions and answers about how voting works and what is at stake:
WHAT'S UP FOR GRABS?
The staggered vote starting next Monday is to fill 498 seats in the lower house. The last run-off vote will take place on January 10. The military council will appoint 10 more deputies. Voting for the 270-strong upper house starts on January 29 and ends on March 11. Ninety of the seats will be appointed after the next president is elected.
WHAT POWERS WILL PARLIAMENT HAVE?
The new parliament's primary task will be to pick a 100-strong constituent assembly to write the new constitution. Only elected members of both houses will get to pick the assembly's members. Parliament will have legislative power, but the military council, which took over from Mubarak, will keep its "presidential powers" until the constitution is drafted or a new president elected.
The military council will still appoint the government, but is likely to face pressure from parliament to ensure it reflects the mix of the newly elected assembly.
A presidential election, under the army's timetable, will take place after a referendum approves the new constitution, perhaps at the end of 2012 or early 2013. Most politicians want a presidential poll straight after the parliamentary vote.
WHO CAN VOTE AND WHEN WILL THEY CAST BALLOTS?
Egypt has 50 million eligible voters among its more than 80 million people. The minimum voting age is 18. Police and military officers are not allowed to vote.
Voting is staggered to ensure judges supervise each round. Judges were sidelined in the 2010 parliamentary election under Mubarak, which rights groups said was heavily rigged.
Three rounds of lower house voting starts on November 28 with the third-round run-off ending the poll on January 10.
HOW WILL VOTING WORK?
For its first free vote in decades, Egypt has chosen a complex system. Two-thirds of the 498 lower house seats will be picked by proportional representation, using lists drawn up by parties or alliances. Each list must include at least one woman candidate and adopt a specific symbol.
Seats will be allocated proportionally, according to the number of votes each party won in each constituency.
The remaining third, or 166 seats, in parliament will be open to individuals, who may or may not have party affiliations.
Of the individual candidates, half must be "professionals" and the rest "workers" or "farmers," categories that hark back to President Gamal Abdel Nasser's redistributive socialist policies in the 1950s and 1960s. Qualifying rules exist, although the distinctions have little relevance.
However, the system does complicate voting procedures.
Each constituency has two seats for individuals. A winner must achieve more than 50 percent of the votes or face a run-off with the second-placed candidate. Even this may not be decisive because of a stipulation that if a professional wins a seat, the other must go to a farmer or worker, although both seats can go to farmers and workers.
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO BEFORE?
Under Egypt's voting system in the 1990s and 2000s, 444 of 454 seats were contested by a two-round system in two-member districts, and 10 were appointed by the president.
Now the constituencies have been expanded and the system reshaped in a way intended to provide a fair representation of parties, movements and ideologies, as well as new groups.
Egypt has been divided into 83 individual districts and 46 proportional list districts for the lower house.
For the upper house, there will be 30 two-member individual districts and 30 party list districts.
WHEN WILL RESULTS COME OUT?
Exit polls may give an early indication, but the phased voting, run-off votes and a threshold that will exclude any party or bloc that fails to gain at least half a percent of valid votes in party list constituencies across Egypt means a final picture may not be clear until voting is over.
WHAT DO ANALYSTS EXPECT?
Most admit that given the complexity of the voting system, the number of parties that have mushroomed since Mubarak's fall and the novelty of free voting, any predictions are guesswork, especially in the absence of reliable opinion polls.
Overall, analysts expect no single group to emerge with a clear majority in what may prove a fragmented parliament.
Broadly, analysts say Islamists could take 40 percent of the seats, with another third or so going to liberals. The rest could go to remnants of Mubarak's former party or others.
Despite the list system, many Egyptians are likely to focus on known faces rather than ideologies -- if they can identify their favorites among more than 6,000 candidates.
In rural areas especially, local notables or members of big families, who previously ran as Mubarak loyalists, are expected to do well. Their presence in parliament could challenge the development of a coherent political party system, analysts say.
(Sources: High Election Committee, Reuters, International Foundation for Electoral Systems)