Egypt Ends First Day of Polling in Presidential Runoff

Posted June 16th, 2012 at 3:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Egyptians have wrapped up the first day of voting in a two-day presidential runoff to select the country's first president since massive protests led to former leader Hosni Mubarak's resignation last year.

Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak-era prime minister, and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi are vying to become president.

Voter turnout was mixed in Saturday's first day of polling.

VOA Middle East Correspondent Elizabeth Arrott says the lines at some Cairo polling stations were shorter than they were during last month's first-round polling.

Arrott reports voters may be disillusioned by the stark differences between the the two contenders.

“There are the two candidates, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister of the old regime — kind of a polarizing choice which I think is a lot less joyful than what people had the first time around when you had 13 candidates and it all seemed so wide open.”

The voting continues on Sunday.

The election went ahead as scheduled despite a week of intense political turmoil in Egypt, triggered by a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that overturned a legal effort to strike Shafiq from the ballot since he held a senior post under Mubarak.

The justices – holdovers from the Mubarak era themselves – also cited legal problems with the last round of parliamentary elections and dissolved the current Islamist-led parliament.

The official MENA news agency says parliament received notice of the decree on Saturday. The news agency says lawmakers will be barred from entering parliament, except with permission.

Some lawmakers in parliament have vowed to fight the ruling.

Some leading Islamists contend the court ruling justified what amounts to a defacto coup by the ruling military council.

Speaking to his supporters in Cairo Thursday, Mr. Shafiq called the court ruling “historic” and urged all Egyptians to take part in the polls. The Muslim Brotherhood said the court's decision indicated that Egypt is heading into “very difficult days, that might be more dangerous than the last days of Mubarak's rule.”

Protesters angered by the court ruling took to the streets in Cairo and Alexandria Friday. Thousands marched to Cairo's Tahrir Square, directing their wrath at Mr. Shafiq, suspicious the former prime minister remains part of a larger plot.

Meanwhile, a campaign urging voters to spoil their ballots, in a bid to show disapproval with both candidates, picked up steam in recent days. Other Egyptians are simply boycotting the vote.

Unofficial results from the run-off are expected early in the coming week. The announcement of the winner is set for Thursday.