Polling process

The People's Assembly has 454 seats, 444 of which are up for grabs in the elections, while the remaining 10 legislators are appointed by the president.

The country of 70 million people is divided into 222 constituencies, each with two representatives. According to the constitution, one of the two seats is reserved for a labourer or a farmer, but this Nasser-era practice has waned.

The voting process will take place in three stages over a month.

Polling started on Wednesday in eight governorates, including Cairo and other areas scattered across the country. Any runoff from the first phase will be on 15 November.

The second phase will start on 20 November and the third will end on 7 December, by which time all of Egypt's 26 governorates will have voted.

Current parliament

Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) controls 404 seats, after 2000 elections that were marred by accusations of widespread irregularities.

The NDP had won only 38% of the vote but more than 200 NDP card-holders elected as independents were brought back into the fold after the vote.

The banned Muslim Brotherhood represents the largest opposition bloc, after 17 of its candidates running as independents won seats. Its seat tally now stands at 15, after two members of parliament dropped out.

The remaining seats are split between smaller parties such as the liberal Wafd, Ayman Nour's al-Ghad and other mainly leftist parties.

The new parliament is to hold its inaugural session on 13 December.

Candidates

There are 5310 candidates competing for seats in parliament, including 529 in Cairo.

The only party to field the maximum 444 candidates is Mubarak's NDP.

The United National Front for Change (UNFC) - a coalition that includes the Kefaya movement and several parliamentary opposition parties such as the Nasserist party, the Wafd and the Marxist party Tagammu - is fielding 395.

The Muslim Brotherhood is fielding about 150 candidates as independents, while the al-Ghad has a similar number, some of them also running as independents.

Voters

About 32 million eligible voters aged 18 or over are registered on the electoral roll. There are no arrangements for overseas voting.

Websites were set up to help Egyptians to collect their voter cards.
 
Monitoring

A court order granted civil society organisations access to the polling stations. NGOs have nevertheless complained that they have to submit lists of monitors to a government-sponsored human rights organisation.

For the first time, transparent ballot boxes will be used, but NGOs and opposition parties have continued to raise doubts over the counting process.