By Dina Zayed
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt pushed back the closing date for parties to register in a parliamentary election for the second time on Saturday after some politicians asked for more time to do their applications, the head of the election committee said.
Egypt's first multi-candidate vote since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled after 30 years in power is a crucial test of the ruling military's commitment to end decades of autocratic rule in the Arab world's most populous country.
Registration has been slow so far, seemingly because coalitions have broken down at the last minute and some parties have had trouble raising funds.
Abdel Moez Ibrahim, the head of the committee, said in a statement carried by state news agency MENA candidates could register until Monday rather than Saturday. The deadline was first set for last Tuesday.
"For the first time, election rules have been changed ... Despite this, the number of candidates is not complete," analyst Diaa Rashwan wrote in al-Masry al-Youm paper on Saturday before the deadline was postponed for the second time.
"This is a precedent that has not happened before in Egypt's history of parliamentary elections," he wrote.
Elections for parliament are due to start on November 28 for a staggered four-months vote for the upper and lower houses.
Candidates must apply, prove they have never committed a crime and pay a fee. The list of applicants will be announced one week after the final date of submissions.
Under rules agreed after Mubarak was overthrown, two thirds of the lower house will be elected via party lists covering entire regions while the rest will be contested by individuals in smaller constituencies.
The division has caused some confusion. Many parties are opting to field independents rather than under a list.
The rules are designed to stop Mubarak loyalists, many of them wealthy notables with enduring influence from returning to politics, but they have also meant newly-formed political parties are in a race against time to field a suitable number of candidates in a country unfamiliar with party politics.
As of Thursday, the committee had announced that 4,263 candidates had applied as independents and with only 73 party lists in the running so far.
"It is clear that our political parties are still weak, making them unable to offer candidates exceeding 8 percent of the lists it should have fielded for elections," Rashwan said.
Last week, newly-formed Islamist parties, run mainly by Salafists who follow strict teachings of Islam, pulled out from the Democratic Alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood saying the movement was monopolizing the electoral list.
The Alliance, which initially had more than 34 parties across the political spectrum and was the single biggest bloc to contest the elections, now has 10 parties.
Political parties have mushroomed since the uprising, with more than 50 in the race and many more being created. But analysts say the groups have struggled to build and maintain coalitions, some blaming ideological differences while others suggesting it was due to inexperience in running coalitions.
"Parties have not taken the time they need to build themselves and contest elections to take place only weeks or days from the time they were established," Rashwan said.