Cairo: Nine months after the end of Hosni Mubarak's autocratic rule, Egyptians on Monday turned out in large numbers to vote in the first post-revolution Parliamentary polls clouded by violence and political crisis, hoping to usher in democracy in the Arab world's most populous nation.

The three-phase election, which follows deadly clashes between pro-democracy protesters and riot police, is the first step towards transfer of power to the civilian rule, promised by the ruling military council, headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, that replaced Mubarak following a popular uprising in February.

Amid tight security, thousands of Egyptians flocked to polling stations in nine governorates as early as 6 am local time to cast their ballots to elect the 508-member People's Assembly or lower house of Parliament. The polling started at 8 am.

Abdel Moez Ibrahim, who heads the High Judicial Elections Commission, said, "We were surprised that people turned out to vote in large numbers, thank God."

"It was higher than expected," he said, without giving initial estimates of turnout.

"There were no reports of security troubles... that's what I was most worried about," he added.

The official acknowledged that there were some teething problems, like late arrival of ballot papers in some areas. But he said, "We are working to fix all that."

Over 50 political parties, along with thousands of independent candidates, are in the fray. Observers expect the Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamist movement, to emerge as the largest party, but without an overall majority.

The first stage of elections are being held in the governorates of Cairo, Al-Fayyum, Port Said, Damietta, Alexandria, Kafr al-Sheikh, Assiut, Luxor and the Red Sea on Monday and Tuesday, with run-offs slated for December 5.

Agencies