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Egyptians vote in historic elections

Thu 24 May 2012 Egyptians vote in historic elections

Yesterday on 23 May the first day of Presidential elections took place in Egypt, while today - 24 may, the second stage of elections takes place. So far the process runs smoothly, although Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, was attacked outside a polling station in Cairo, after casting his vote. Reliable exit polls are not yet existent, but there are indications from campaign organisers on how they think their respective candidates have fared. Early reports put Mohamed Mursi, Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq variably at the head of race. Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh is also in chance of obtaining many votes.

Candidates
The Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsy is reported to have gained a large percentage of the vote abroad. The former chairman of the recently formed Freedom and Justice Party, is expected by some to make it to the run-offs as the Islamists and salafis will be voting for him.  There have been reports of voting violations in Saudi Arabia where Egyptian expatriates formed 50% of the Egyptians who are voting abroad. In total 80,000 Egyptians are reported to have cast their vote abroad.

Ahmed Shafiq has a track record of military achievements and is ought capable of bringing stability to Egypt. Though the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has not publicly supported any candidate, Shafiq, former Minister of Aviation is considered to gain the vote of members of the military and SCAF supporters. He is condemned for taking part in the old regime.

Amr Moussa is a former Arab League chief who previously served as Mubarak's foreign minister. He is favoured by secularists, liberals and the so-called "silent majority" of the middle and upper class that eventually came to support the revolution but fear more unrest.

Aboul Fotouh is a former member of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood and runs independently from other parties. He has pulled together an unlikely coalition of liberals, socialists, and religious conservatives and is seen as the best candidate for the politically unaffiliated youth of the revolution.

Balloting
Voter turnout on the first day was initially low but increased in the evening when polling was extended to cope with the voting queues. Voters and election monitors said they were encouraged by the strong turnout, the enthusiasm among those casting ballots and the orderly way in which polling stations were run. The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights (ECWR), which checks the balloting, has reported different irregularities. One of them occurred when women wearing a face covering Niqab were allowed to vote in polling stations in the Sohag governorate without their faces being checked, which is a violation of the law. Furthermore, also campaigning has taken place at polling stations.

Reactions
The United States on 23 May hailed the start of the first free presidential election in Egypt as a “very important milestone” in the country’s transition to democracy. Nobel laureate and reform campaigner Mohamed El Baradei said in an interview that he considers it less important who wins the election than establishing national unity. Whether Egyptians choose a reformist, an Islamist or a pragmatic leader, the key is to agree "on the basic common values that they're going to live under" – and for that to happen, basic needs such as food and health care in Egypt have to be met better, he stated. The army has said to hand over power in June as soon as a new president is installed. However, many fear this promise is not more than an illusion. If there is no clear outcome to this first round of Presidential elections, which is expected on 29 May, a second round will take place in June.

For live updates, check The Guardian

Heba Elkayal, local reporter for the European Forum, contributed to this article.

Sources
ABC News
Al Jazeera
The Guardian

Image
Flickr by Ahmed Abdel-fatah

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