Millions of women were among the 52 percent of eligible voters who cast ballots in Egypts parliamentary elections this week, but preliminary results suggest that Egypts first popularly elected legislature since the revolution will not include a single female face. Despite anecdotal reports of massive female turnout in Cairo and the other eight governorates that cast ballots in this first of three rounds of voting, women may very well be the biggest losers of an election that has been hailed as the freest and fairest in Egypts recent history. Although 376 female candidates are running for parliament, not a single woman was elected in the first two days of voting on November 28 and 29 and this weeks runoff races. And there is good reason to believe that women will fare just as poorly in subsequent rounds of voting. The second and third stages of elections, slated for December and January, will include Egypts most rural and conservative districts where gender biases are more deeply ingrained than the urban centres of Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said that voted this week. Faced with the very real possibility of an exclusively male parliament, many Egyptians are wondering: Were women left behind by the Revolution? Women have been on the frontlines of protests in Tahrir Square since the earliest days of the uprising and were instrumental in mobilising the grassroots groundswell on Twitter and Facebook. But as activist youth movements like the Revolutionary Youth Coalition struggle to define their role in the post-revolutionary system pondering if and how they should convert the momentum of the street into formal political representation women are increasingly being left out of the conversation. While its true that the forty some-odd parties launched since last January have welcomed women as members and in some leadership positions, when it came time to nominate candidates for the parliamentary elections, women were conspicuously absent from the party lists. In late October, as parties began lining up their candidate rosters for the two thirds of parliamentary seats that will be allocated by closed-list proportional representation, Gameela Ismael, one of Egypts most prominent political activists and the ex-wife of presidential candidate Ayman Nour, publicly defected from the Democratic Alliance a primarily Islamist coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhoods Freedom and Justice Party just weeks before the election, citing the coalitions discriminatory stance against female candidates. Although women represent almost 25 percent of Egypts labour force and 49 percent of university students, they still suffer from persistent discrimination and harassment in the workplace and at home. In 2010, Egypt ranked a dismal 120 out of 128 countries in gender equality by the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, largely due to its poor performance in the subcategories of political empowerment and genuine female opportunity in the economy. Gender-based violence remains a serious problem for women, including major public figures like Bothaina Kamel, a former television anchor and Egypts first female presidential candidate, who claims to have been sexually assaulted by soldiers after joining a recent protest in Tahrir Square. Although the discourse surrounding the January uprising drew inspiration from liberal democratic values, the revolution has not altered the fundamentally patriarchal infrastructure of Egyptian society or its biased gender norms. Mozn Hassan, a womens rights activist and director of the organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies, recognises that entrenched values and attitudes wont be uprooted overnight. Some people thought the culture-based discrimination we had been raised on could be changed in 18 days, she said, referring to the revolution. Now they know its a long struggle. Female candidates already face an uphill battle in overcoming sexist attitudes on the campaign trail, but to make matters worse, structural features of the new electoral system have stacked the odds against women. Amendments to the electoral law introduced in October replaced the 64-seat quota for female parliamentary representatives enacted by the former regime with the requirement that each partys candidate list include at least one woman. Although final results will not be determined until the third round of voting in January, its already clear that the revised gender quota has radically diminished the odds for female candidates, and preliminary results virtually guarantee that Egypts next government will include significantly fewer women than did that of Hosni Mubarak. Mubaraks former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) realised early on that it could consolidate its monopoly on power and burnish its paper-thin credentials as a nominal democracy by promoting the political participation of women. In 2010, the NDP introduced a 64-seat quota for female representatives in the Peoples Assembly. Even though the decision was primarily motivated by the ruling partys desire to further consolidate an already overwhelming parliamentary majority by padding the Peoples Assembly with regime-friendly appointees, the quota was hailed by international observers as a victory for womens rights. Although the former regime blatantly exploited its female loyalists as political pawns, women undeniably benefited from their representation in parliament and unprecedented visibility in the political arena. But this weeks election results dont bode well for their role in the new political system. After women held a respectable 12 percent of the seats in Mubaraks last parliament, (4 elected and 60 appointed), the current elections are projected to produce a parliament that is entirely devoid of women. Looking more closely at the new electoral system, structural features of the political game will make it extraordinarily difficult for women to win. At face value, the requirement that each party include a woman on its list looks like a step toward levelling the playing field. But in reality, forcing parties to nominate women has done no favours for female candidates. Parties have dealt with the gender requirement by relegating women to the least desirable slots at the bottom of their candidate lists. As one female candidate, Suheir al-Matanin described the problem, Women are just there for decoration. Under the proportional representation system, seats are allocated to candidates according to their relative position on a partys list. In most cases, only the first two or three names on a list have a reasonable chance of winning seats, so if every party places its female candidates near the bottom, Egypts next parliament is virtually guaranteed to be free of women. The SCAF could of course remedy the blatant gender imbalance in a backhanded way, by packing the ten seats reserved for government appointees with women and Coptic Christians, a favourite tactic of the former regime to artificially inflate the parliamentary representation of minorities. In light of the landslide victory by Islamist parties this week (projected to win up to 70 percent of the Peoples Assembly), some Egyptians are concerned that a parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis could reverse progress on womens rights. Farkhonda Hassan, secretary-general of the National Council for Women (NCW), warned that the underrepresentation of women in the next parliament could set Egypt a dozen steps back. If Islamists come to power, I expect that they will strip women of the achievements they made throughout the previous years, Hassan predicted. When Salafi parties were required to include women on their candidate lists, they made sure that the candidates faces were replaced with flowers on campaign materials, because displaying photos of women in public was deemed inappropriate. If the Salafis are already censoring posters, their parliamentarians arent likely to look favorably on the participation of women in public and political life. Reacting to election results on December 6, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the United States expects all democratic actors and elected officials to uphold universal human rights, including womens rights. But without a voice in parliament, the rights Egyptian women have fought for over the past few decades could be in jeopardy. Mara Revkin is the assistant director of the Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East and editor of EgyptSource. Foreign Policy