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Egypt's big battle: Muslim Brotherhood vs. the military

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Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

(Read caption) A man and a woman cast their votes in a school used as a voting center in Al-Arish city, north Sinai, Wednesday. Egypt's big battle is coming, as the third round of parliamentary elections wraps up today.

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A big battle is coming in Egypt, as the third round of parliamentary elections wraps up today.

On one side is the Muslim Brotherhood, whose superior organization, brand recognition, and public trust made it the big winner in the first two rounds of voting. On the other side is the military junta that has ruled Egypt since Mubarak was forced from power, known as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

With the third round of the vote nearly done (though runoffs are still to come) the question is: Will the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) take an outright majority of parliament? And will SCAF continue to seek to limit the power of the parliament to write a new constitution?

The FJP, founded after Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power last year by Egypt's popular uprising, won 40 percent of the vote in the first two rounds and by some counts 48 percent of the available seats. They are expected to do well in today's final round, given as it's being held in smaller towns and rural areas. Depending on how this round shakes out after runoffs, and how potential legal challenges are dealt with, the Brotherhood could go over the 50 percent threshold.

If it doesn't make it, it will have to work with either the Salafis (Islamists who favor an austere application of Islamic law that they believe prevailed at the time of the prophet Muhammad) or secular parties to form a government. But either way, what will it matter? 

The Brotherhood has said it should be up to the democratically elected parliament to decide on the membership of a committee to write the new constitution, while the military has been pushing for appointees to be involved that would likely water down the Brothers' influence.

That Constitution will set the rules of the game for the new Egypt (for at least as long as it stands), and could have profound effects on the evolution of the state by what it says about the role of Islam, protections of minority rights versus the will of the majority, and how much civilian control can be exercised over the military.

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