Egypt's military leaders took credit Tuesday for the large voter turnout and relative peace of the country's first parliamentary election since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power earlier this year.

"When we plan, we execute and, at the end, we succeed," Maj. Gen. Ismail Etman said in a television interview.

Etman, who is a member of the ruling military council, compared the vote to the 1973 invasion of Israel, a proud moment among Egyptian military officers.

"The armed forces pulled off this election like they pulled off the crossing in 1973," Etman said, according to The Associated Press.

Egypt saw voters turn out en masse for the election, peacefully exercising their right to elect a parliament months after Mubarak's government was ousted during the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East.

The head of Egypt's election committee said there were no exact figures on voter turnout Monday, but it was high enough for him to order polling stations to stay open an extra two hours, Reuters reported.

But the electoral process was still far from perfect, according to Mahmoud Salem, an investment banker and prominent activist who is running for a seat in the parliament.

"We've had very little time to campaign," he told CBC News from Cairo. "And there's no polling data anywhere, so it's all very murky."

Salem said that violence between protesters and police last week "marred today slightly," but that Egyptians were still happy to vote.

The election came in the wake of recent demonstrations that saw 42 people killed, leading to fears there would be violence at the polls. Instead, the election appeared to take place without any major violence or reports of widespread fraud.

"I think it's an important step," Rawya Gamal, a polling station volunteer, told Reuters television. "And to see so many women just walk out and just stand for seven and eight hours and determined they are not going to leave, they are going to vote, because the longer they stayed, and the more problems we had inside, the more determined people were to stay and vote. And that, I think, that's just fantastic."

Maj.-Gen. Mukhtar al-Mulla, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, described the turnout as "unprecedented in the history of the Arab world's parliamentary life."

It remains to be seen, however, whether the country will remain secular or turn down a more Islamic path, as have other nations swept up in the Arab Spring.

"I am voting for this country's sake," said Zeinab Saad, 50, who brought her young daughter to a polling station in Cairo. "We want a new beginning. It's a great thing to feel like your vote matters."

Long, complicated process

Trading on the Egyptian stock market was suspended Tuesday after the benchmark stock index rose more than five per cent on optimism about the economy.   

The voting process, long and complicated, is spread over the next six weeks across 27 provinces, divided into thirds with run-offs held a week after the first round in each location.

Voters have to pick two individuals and one alliance or party slate — a mechanism that has left many among the 50 million eligible voters puzzled and apparently still undecided.

While the overwhelming majority spoke with excitement over getting to cast their ballots, a few headed to the polls to avoid an onerous $86 fee imposed by the ruling military on absent voters. In some of the country's populous districts, younger voters dragged their elders to ensure they would not have to pay the fine.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organized group, along with its Islamist allies are expected to do well in the vote, which has been a source of concern for secular and liberal Egyptians who fear the Brotherhood will try to implement a strict version of Islamic law in the country.

With files from The Associated Press