Egypt’s Post-Mubarak Polls Peaceful; High Turnout Reported

Posted November 28th, 2011 at 5:05 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Egyptians voted Monday in the first parliamentary elections since a popular uprising ended the 30-year rule of former president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Voters lined up for hours to take part in the polls, suggesting a high turnout. Many said they were voting for the first time, while others expressed hope that this election, unlike those of decades past, will count.

Despite a crackdown in past days on anti-government protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the vote was largely peacefully. Thousands of Egyptian judges were monitoring the process.

The staggered polls to elect parliament's lower house began in the main cities of Cairo and Alexandria as well as seven other provinces. A runoff for those areas is scheduled for December 5.

Egypt's 27 provinces are voting in three separate rounds in a process that concludes in early January. Elections for the upper house will then take place, ending in March, after which the assembly will write a new constitution.

The U.S. ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson, on Monday congratulated Egyptians for the elections and the high turnout.

The influential Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement officially banned since the 1950s, is poised to win a stronger role in a country run by the military for nearly six decades as an authoritarian secular state.

But Egypt's ruling generals have established a convoluted electoral system that many fear will result in a legislature lacking credibility. Army generals have made clear the new assembly would have no right to remove a government appointed by the ruling military council.

The council's head, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, defended the army's privileged status in Egyptian society, declaring Sunday that “the position of the armed forces will remain as it is,” even after a new constitution is passed.

Tantawi said the country is at a crossroads and can choose either successful elections “leading Egypt towards safety” or face dangerous hurdles that the armed forces “will not allow.” He also warned of “extremely grave” consequences if the country's current political turmoil does not end quickly.

Nine days of widespread clashes, with 42 people killed and more than 3,000 injured, have heightened fears of violence among supporters of rival candidates.

Thousands of people filled Cairo's Tahrir Square Sunday demanding Egypt's military immediately cede power to a “national salvation government” that would run the country until a president is elected.

Meanwhile, saboteurs attacked a gas pipeline in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula early Monday, just hours before polls opened. The assault marked the ninth time this year attackers had targeted the pipeline, which supplies natural gas to Israel and Jordan.