News / Middle East

Egyptians Vote After Night of Protests

Egyptians gather to protest ongoing military rule in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Friday, June 15, 2012.
Egyptians gather to protest ongoing military rule in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Friday, June 15, 2012.
Elizabeth Arrott
Egyptians go to the polls Saturday and Sunday in a polarizing presidential race already fraught by controversial court decisions.  Whoever wins the runoff will preside over a country with neither a constitution defining his powers, nor an effective legislative branch to act as a check.

Lines formed outside polling stations Saturday amid tight security.

Tensions were high on the eve of the presidential vote, with anger directed squarely at the nation's ruling military council.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets decrying Thursday's constitutional court decision to let Egypt's last prime minister, former Air Force commander Ahmed Shafiq, stay in the race, despite a law banning ex-officials from taking part.

Demonstrator Iman Ibrahim says she would sacrifice her life before seeing a return to politics of the past.   She says the nation will not return to the “bottle” the interim military rulers want to imprison them in.  “Forget it, military council” she says, “Egyptians have woken up.”  

Ibrahim says she will vote for Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, not that she likes him or his organization, but because at least, she believes, he offers some alternative.

Others look at the choice and also see limitations. But like Mona Makram Ebeid, a lecturer at the American University in Cairo, they view Shafiq as a safeguard of civil society against Islamist inroads.

"I think that Shafiq will be an excellent statesman," she said. "He will not be the man of the regime the people think of. ... He is looking forward; he is looking to the future. He is giving hope to the young people no matter how suspicious they are of him."

But a parallel decision by the court Thursday to disqualify one-third of parliamentary seats has also raised concerns.  The court says this means the dissolution of the Islamist-led legislative body.  Lawmakers are contesting the ruling, which also disrupts the writing of a new constitution.

American University in Cairo professor Said Sadek believes this has long been the plan of the military council, now apparently in charge of drafting the next basic law.

“If it's Shafiq, [who wins] then they can play with the constitution and will give a lot of power to the president," he said. "If it's Morsi, they will not give him the same prerogative.  They will make him a very weak president. He will not be able to influence the institutions, the well-established institutions and the ruling elites in all the Mubarak system who had not been touched yet."

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has promised to hand over control to a civilian government by the end of the month. But suspicions it will continue to play a major role either on stage or behind-the-scenes have many worried.

Protester and labor union member Adel Qandil says he feels like he is watching the last act of a play, written by the military when it took over from the old government last year.  He says the military is “laughing at all of us,” at turns portraying the protesters in a bad light, then the Muslim Brotherhood, “pitting the whole nation against one another.”

Qandil vows to begin a protest vigil outside the presidential palace if Shafiq wins the election.

But even those critical of the military council voice doubts that the revolutionary spirit of early last year can be revived.

"The military has played an incredibly destructive role in terms of the potential for Egypt's transition and I am not sure to what extent that early momentum of the first month can be recaptured - because we could see Egypt restabilizing in a new kind of authoritarianism that is slightly more open, but still the fundamental structure will remain in place," said Heba Morayef, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Cairo.

Political observers are concerned that even if Shafiq wins the race fairly, suspicions raised by this week's events would shadow his presidency and cause additional unrest.  

But as one activist commented online in the wake of the court rulings, “We'd be outraged if we weren't so exhausted.”  After 16 months of instability, the weariness is shared by many.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Steven from: Brooklyn
June 15, 2012 7:45 PM
All I can say is, thank God I'm an American!


by: Harry Kuheim from: USA
June 15, 2012 6:20 PM
Not to worry Folks...after the Islamofascists topple Egypt, Pakistan,Syria, Indonesia,the rest of Africa, and Afghanistan, etc. Then cause "rivers of Jewish blood to flow", and establish Sharia Law World Wide the 12th Imam will rule the World where Islam is the only Religion and there is only one God...sounds peachy right?


by: Anonymous
June 15, 2012 6:11 PM
It will take years before Egypt is back to some sense of normalcy. The right to vote democratic is what the people want, yet many are not acting democratic themselves. I do not think that normalcy will be back in our lifetime.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid