That the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party appears to have won the most votes - 40 percent - in the Egyptian voting that took place Monday and Tuesday isn't much of a surprise, given the Brotherhood's organization and experience.

The big surprise lies in the battle for second place, which according to Al Jazeera was won by Al-Nour (the Party of Light ), which is identified with the Salafists and other extreme Islamic groups. This is a significant accomplishment for a group with no political experience in Egypt, and which was pursued by the Egyptian security forces until the revolution earlier this year.

The Al-Arabiya network said that Al-Nour is running neck and neck with the Egyptian Bloc, a party considered liberal and secular, with many Christian members. The Egyptian Bloc claimed Wednesday to have between 20 percent and 30 percent of the vote.

Though results from ballot counts in large cities like Cairo, Alexandria, Assiut and Port Said were being leaked to the Arab media, the official results will only be announced on Thursday. What's more, these results are only from the nine provinces that voted this week for the People's Council, the lower house of the new Egyptian parliament, with two more rounds of voting still to come.

Still, because these were especially large provinces, this first round is seen as painting a fairly accurate picture of the relative power of the various parties, and its results will determine 30 percent of the council seats.

The next two rounds of voting for the People's Council in Egypt's 18 other provinces will be later this month and in January, with final results expected on January 13. Then, between January and March, there will be voting for the 264 seats in the parliament's upper house.

The results are an indication of the political leaning of the future Egyptian parliament. Like other countries in the Middle East, such as Tunisia and Morocco, the Islamic parties are succeeding not only in increasing their strength compared to in previous elections (which were not truly free ), but in becoming the ruling parties.

Even though many Egyptians, particularly in Cairo, are not particularly religious, the existing political infrastructure of veteran groups like the Muslim Brotherhood undoubtedly helped them organize and bring in more votes than other parties.

Moreover, the religious vote seems to have been split between two parties, while the secular vote went to the many different secular parties, weakening its impact.

Meanwhile, the confrontations in Cairo's Tahrir Square resumed late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. Before dawn a group of thugs attacked passersby and threw firebombs for no discernable reason, injuring several dozen people. Reports that the thugs were actually Egyptian security personnel could not be confirmed.