Polls Open for Egypt’s Historic Presidential Election

Posted May 23rd, 2012 at 3:45 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Egyptians have begun casting ballots in a historic presidential election that marks the start of the final phase of a political transition that resulted in the departure of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Twelve candidates are in the running to become the first president since massive anti-government protests lead to Mr. Mubarak's 2011 resignation.

VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott is in Cairo where she says there are long lines at polling stations.

“People started to line up even before the polls opened at 8 o'clock and then in the time after that, they have just seemed to get longer and longer. People are very excited about taking part.”

About 50 million Egyptian's are eligible to cast ballots in the two-day poll. Among them is Gihad Amr who says he does not know what to expect.

“I feel very anxious because I don't know whether the outcome will be good or bad. I hope it is a good outcome but yet you see feel anxiety that it might turn wrong or it might turn right.”

Several candidates have emerged as frontrunners. Two of the front-runners served under Mr. Mubarak and have promised to restore stability and ensure secular rule.

Former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, a liberal who has been a public figure for years, seemed to be leading the pack until the last few days. But recent polls have shown the rise of Ahmed Shafiq, a former Air Force commander and Mr. Mubarak's last prime minister, who enjoys the support of Egypt's powerful military.

The two are running against a pair of Islamist candidates who also seem to have strong support.

Mohamed Morsi represents Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood. He entered the race late but has benefited from the group's effective political machine, which has campaigned door-to-door.

His rise has come at the expense of the moderate Islamist candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. A former Brotherhood member, Aboul Fotouh's campaign is geared to a wide range of Egyptian voters, from liberals to hardline Salafi Muslims and Christians.

No outright winner is expected. A runoff is scheduled for June 16-17 between the two top finishers. The winner will be announced June 21.

A victory for either of the secularist candidates would mark a significant turn from parliamentary elections just six months ago when more than 70 percent of voters cast ballots for Islamist parties.