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Egyptian Runoff Proceeds as Tensions Simmer

  • VOA News

Egyptian woman carrying photo of relative killed in 2011 revolution protests high court ruling, Alexandria, June 15, 2012.

Egyptian woman carrying photo of relative killed in 2011 revolution protests high court ruling, Alexandria, June 15, 2012.

Angry protesters took to the streets in Cairo and Alexandria Friday, taking aim at a supreme court ruling seen by many as a calculated power-grab by the remnants of the old regime.

Tensions have been high in Egypt since Thursday's Supreme Constitutional Court ruling cast doubt over the future of Egypt's popular revolt.

Many protesters are directing their anger at Ahmed Shafiq, who served as former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister. In the streets of Alexandria, they chanted, "The people demand the fall of Shafiq" and "down with military rule"

Click here for a Storify on Egypt elections

The court's decision overturned a law passed by the Islamist-led parliament that barred senior officials from the Mubarak government from holding office, clearing the way for Shafiq to compete in a presidential run-off election on Saturday and Sunday. The justices - holdovers from the Mubarak era - also cited legal problems with the last round of parliamentary elections and called for the Islamist-led parliament to be dissolved.

Some leading Islamists accuse the country's ruling military council of using the court to stage a de facto coup.

Iman Ahmed, a protester on a hunger strike in Cairo, made an even more dire prediction.

"I think its going to be like a big war in the country. That's what I think, right, and a lot of people think the same," he said.

But demonstrator and Muslim Brotherhood supporter Hamdy Abdel Rahman says Egyptians will not be intimidated.

"We agreed that after elections we can begin to speak out, because we are confident that the people will have their say, the people will choose the Islamic institution, and they will choose what's right and stay away from remnants of the old regime that wasted their blood, raped them and stole their livelihood under full tyranny," said Abdel Rahman.

VOA's Elizabeth Arrott, in Cairo, reports the anger has been tempered by a weariness shared by many Egyptians.

"There was an interesting tweet yesterday that one very outspoken had said that, you know, we'd be outraged if we weren't so exhausted," said Arrott. "So it has been a very difficult 16 months for people, that they feel that every step they take forward there's one backward. There's a sizeable part of the population that's just tired of seeing protests and just wants to move on, no matter how flawed this process may be."

The ruling military council has said the runoff election set for Saturday and Sunday between Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi will go on as planned.

Many Egyptians remain torn, unhappy with the choice before them and there has been some talk of boycotting the vote or of casting nullified ballots as a protest.

Ashraf Mahmoud, in Alexandria, says he sees no alternative but to vote.

"God willing, Mohammed Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood candidate) is going to win it, even though I disagree a lot with him and I do not like the fact that he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood," explained Mahmoud. "But I am going to vote for him in an attempt to save the revolution and for it to continue, because unfortunately the Supreme Council of Armed Forces has slapped the people (by dismissing the parliament and giving Shafiq the right to continue in the presidential race)"

Despite the anger being directed at the ruling military council, Mona Makram Ebeid with the American University in Cairo says even a Shafiq win does not likely signal a return to the ways of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.

"I think that Shafiq will be an excellent statesman. He will not be the man of the regime the people think of. This is behind his back," said Ebeid. "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."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Washington is monitoring the situation and expects to see a "full transfer of power to a democratically-elected civilian government."

"There can be no going back on the democratic transition called for by the Egyptian people," she said.

Speaking to supporters in Cairo Thursday, Ahmed Shafiq called the ruling "historic" and urged all Egyptians to take part in the polls. But the Muslim Brotherhood says the court ruling indicated that Egypt was heading into "very difficult days that might be more dangerous than the last days of Mubarak's rule."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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