CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt awaited results on Thursday from its first election since its February revolution which are set to confirm moderate Muslim Brotherhood as the dominant force, but with a strong showing from hardliners. The Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate movement banned for decades by Hosni Mubarak, has emerged from the shadows since the autocrats fall and has forecast its party will take at least 40 per cent of the vote. The battle for second place had been seen as between secular liberals and hardline Islamists who follow the strict Salafi brand of Islam, but local media indicated the latter were poised to prevail in the parliamentary vote. Al-Nur, the surprise of the moment, headlined the independent Al-Shorouq daily on Thursday, referring to the main party of the Salafists, whose members follow a strict form of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia. Estimates in the press indicated they would win more than 20 per cent when results are published later Thursday at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT) for the areas that voted on Monday and Tuesday about a third of all constituencies. Millions of Egyptians embraced their new democratic freedoms in the capital Cairo and second-city Alexandria earlier this week in an orderly and peaceful first phase of multi-stage parliamentary elections. Analysts warn against reading too much into only the first part of a parliamentary election that will last until March, but the results will reveal the political trends in a country that has not had a free vote in 60 years. The prospect of an Islamist-dominated parliament raises fears among liberals about civil liberties, religious freedom in a country with the Middle Easts largest Christian minority, and tolerance of multi-party democracy. Osama Mohammed, a liberal 31-year-old with a job at a multinational company, took part in the demonstrations in iconic Tahrir Square that led to the toppling of Mubaraks regime in February. Its shocking, he told AFP. We always knew and expected the Muslim Brotherhood to win because they have been working on the ground with the people for years. But the Salafis were practically unknown to most of the public. The Brotherhoods Freedom and Justice Party says it strives for a civil state, defined as a non-military non-religious state... that respects human rights according to its political programme. Leaders have repeatedly stressed their commitment to multi-party democracy and inclusiveness, and pledged to ensure freedoms. The group has been officially banned since the 1950s, but it counts hundreds of thousands of members and is known for its vast network of social and religious outreach programmes, as well as its stand against corruption. The Brotherhood beats the drums of victory, headlined the independent daily Al-Shorouk on Thursday. The hardline Al-Nur was initially part of the Democratic Alliance coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood, but they split to form their Islamic Alliance. Pictures of their candidates, clearly identifiable by their long beards, were highly visible around polling stations this week and they actively campaigned in conservative rural areas outside the capital. The vote on Monday and Tuesday in Cairo and Alexandria and other areas was the first of three stages of an election for a new lower house of parliament. The rest of the country follows next month and in January. After each round, there will be a run-off vote between individual candidates, and then a further three rounds of voting for the upper house of parliament from January. It remains unclear how the new parliament will function and how much power it will be given by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubaraks long-time defence minister. Observers say Egypt, the Arab worlds most populous nation and its cultural heartland, faces a long, highly complex and uncertain transition to democracy.