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Voting Continues in Egypt's Landmark Elections

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Egyptian women show their inked fingers after voting in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011

Egyptian women show their inked fingers after voting in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011

Egyptians lined up for hours Monday to take part in the nation's first post-revolution parliamentary elections. While logistics for the staggered, three-month process are daunting, so far, voters seemed pleased to be able to make their voices heard.

The line stretched for blocks outside a polling station in Cairo, with some voters hopeful that this election, unlike those of decades past, will count.

Student Farah, her uncovered hair standing out in a line mostly of veiled women, said she came to ensure a good future for all Egyptians.

"We want now to participate in everything in our country. I could participate last year, or the previous period, but I wasn't sure my voice will take the original steps in our process. Now I'm sure, insha'allah that my voice will be heard," said Farah.

Despite a crackdown in past days on anti-military protests in the capital's Tahrir Square, the vote was proceeding peacefully across much of Cairo governorate, one of several regions of the country taking part in this first stage of elections.

The three month process is being hailed as a milestone for Egypt, a country dominated by a military-backed government for nearly 60 years. Political analyst Hassan Nafae said that as imperfect as the vote may be, it may answer a fundamental question.

"This is a very, very important election in just one sense: It will, for the first time, show us who represents what exactly, because we really don't know," said Nafae.

In Alexandria, where the two-day first round of voting also was underway, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party told VOA that in two districts where Islamist parties were popular, ballots didn't arrive until noon. He added the army was being cooperative, though, helping to establish security at polling places - a scene he described as "remarkable."

Islamists hope to do well in this voting, both the Freedom and Justice party, and the more fundamentalist [Salafist] Al Nour party.

Marwa Mohammed, standing in line to cast her vote in Cairo, came to give her support to the Salafists.

Fully covered in a niqab, she said the party represents her: "It will fulfill my future demands, God willing."

Nearby, another voter hoped for a more mainstream government. Mariam, a dentist wearing the more common hijab, or headscarf, said her main hope is that this new wave of popular participation continues.

"I'm really not sure how it will go, but I'm aiming for a moderate Egypt. I'm aiming for a better future for our kids and I need to see a more proactive people in the community, and more of a literate community rather than what we had before," said Mariam.

Cairo-based analyst Nafae said that is likely to happen, even though he believes the parliament being elected now will be weakened because there will be no new constitution until next year, and the military vows to prolong its rule.

"I am not optimistic about the next parliament, but I am optimistic about the future because I do believe that the Egyptian people are much more aware than before and they will work very hard until they achieve all the objectives of the revolution," said Nafae.

The first round of voting ends Tuesday, with runoff elections set for two weeks from now. Other regions in the country will begin their voting next month.

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