Cairo: Egypt's influential Muslim Brotherhood group on Wednesday claimed that it was leading in the initial count of results from the first phase of historic Parliamentary polls in the post-Mubarak era but also acknowledged that it was facing stiff competition from more hard-line Islamic parties.

Muslim Brotherhood, which was persecuted and banned during the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak who was ousted in February following a popular uprising, claimed that their new Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) was ahead in preliminary results.

"From the start of the voting process until now (0300 IST), preliminary results show the Freedom and Justice party list ahead," an FJP statement said after two days of voting for the first phase of polls which concluded on Tuesday.

The Nour Party, comprising ultra-conservative Islamic Salafis, was giving strong competition to FJP in the Nile Delta district Kafr el-Sheikh and Mediterranean province of Alexandria.

The FJP's strongest showing so far was in Fayoum, south of Cairo, followed by the Red Sea, Cairo and the southern city of Assiut, the statement said, adding that Nour Party was a strong competitor in Kafr el-Sheikh and Alexandria. It did not provide the figures.

Liberal-secular alliance called the Egyptian Bloc was also reportedly doing well in some places.

According to the Egyptian Gazette, Fayyoum governorate has recorded the highest number of votes for the FJP. 

Preliminary results also showed minimal votes for former members of Mubarak's now-defunct National Democratic Party, who have joined old and new parties.

Millions of people voted in the first stage of elections on Monday and yesterday, which were held in the governorates of Cairo, Al-Fayyum, Port Said, Damietta, Alexandria, Kafr al-Sheikh, Assiut, Luxor and the Red Sea, with run-offs slated for December 5.

Initially, 27 provinces will go to the polls in three separate stages in a long procedure until January to elect the 508-member People's Assembly.

The second stage will be held on December 14 in Giza, Beni Sueif, Menufia, Sharqiya, Beheira, Suez, Ismailiya, Sohag and Aswan, with a run-off scheduled for December 21.

The third and final round will take place on January 3 in Minya, Qaliubiya, Gharbia, Daqahliya, North Sinai, South Sinai, New Valley, Matruh and Qena. The last run-off will be held on January 10.

The final results of the polls, Egypt's first free elections since army officers drove the king into exile in 1952, are expected on January 1.

(Agencies)