Results Trickle in From Egypt’s Presidential Election

Posted May 25th, 2012 at 4:25 am (UTC-5)
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(New information in graphs 7-8 and Rest Opt, adds audio))

Egypt began its first full day of vote-counting on Friday after millions of citizens cast ballots in a presidential election that marks the first time they have been able to freely choose a leader.

Election officials will announce the final results from the two-day election on Tuesday, but Egyptian newspapers say preliminary results trickling in from some regions show the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamad Morsi emerging as a top vote-getter.

Earlier, a spokesman for the Islamist group said Morsi was ahead in nationwide exit polls conducted by the organization's campaign workers. The reliability of the Brotherhood's polls could not be confirmed.

Initial results in the newspapers indicate strong showings by three other candidates. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh is a moderate Islamist supported by some liberals, leftists and minority Christians. Former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and former foreign minister Amr Moussa are secularists who served under former President Hosni Mubarak.

A victory for one 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.

A fifth candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, also appears to have fared well. He gained steadily in opinion polls over the past week, attracting voters who wanted neither an Islamist or a former regime figure.

VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott says voters are generally pleased with how election officials are handling the ballot-counting.

“In the polling stations themselves, they appear to be going through by hand and this has been one of the key things. Everybody has been very glad that they are doing it that way, By having observers watching them be counted in polling station by polling station, it's much, much harder to commit fraud on any large level.”

In all, 12 candidates were in the race. A runoff is scheduled for June 16-17 between the two top finishers.

On Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood predicted the runoff would be between Mursi and Shafiq.

The winner of the presidential runoff will be announced June 21.

The balloting, on Wednesday and Thursday, marked the country's first presidential election since anti-government protests led to Mr. Mubarak's abrupt resignation last year.

Whoever wins faces massive challenges – the economy has collapsed as the key tourism industry dried up, crime has increased and labor strikes have proliferated.