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November 26, 2011

Egypt to Vote in Parliamentary Poll Amidst Uncertainty

by Peter Clottey

An Egyptian political analyst says there are security concerns as anti-government protesters demand the formation of an interim civilian government ahead of Monday’s legislative election.

Gamal Nkrumah, who is an editor of Al-Ahram newspaper in Egypt, says while the military enjoys support from an older generation, it has little or none from young people who want the leadership to immediately relinquish power.

“The general view in the country is confusion,” said Nkrumah. “There is a large number of younger people who are very anti-military [but] by and large the majority over 40 are for the military because since the revolution, there has been a near breakdown in law and order in many parts of the country.”

A number of the revolutionary youth groups leading the protests have proposed that Nobel Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei head an interim civilian administration with deputies from across the political spectrum. They want the proposed body to replace the military leadership in supervising Egypt's transition to democracy.

But the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Mohamed Tantawi warns of “extremely grave” consequences if the country's current political turmoil does not end quickly. He said the ruling military council “will not allow troublemakers to meddle” in Monday’s parliamentary vote.

Many Egyptians are expressing security concern about the polls. Nkrumah underscored the need to ensure voters are protected during the election.

“It’s an uncertain situation. A lot of the police and armed forces and the various security organizations in the country are stuck in Tahrir Square, and that leaves few policemen and army security men to police the different polling stations,” said Nkrumah. “A lot of Egyptians will tell you we are going to cast our votes, but we are uncertain as to if violence will erupt, in and around the polling stations, but we are going, nevertheless.”

There is a “hefty” fine for citizens who fail to vote. “The very wealthy might afford to pay the fine and not to risk their lives by going to the various polling stations. However, the vast majority of Egyptians cannot afford this fine.”

Observers see Monday’s vote as the first free fair and transparently organized vote in a multiparty system in decades. Citizens abroad can vote in Egypt’s embassies and consulates around the world.

Nkrumah said there seems to be a mix-up about the success of the uprising which some analysts blame for Egypt’s current economic challenges.

“A lot of people feel that the revolutionary activity, the taste of freedom might be very seductive to the young, however that economically, the country is in ruins because of the protests in Tahrir Square and the revolution,” said Nkrumah.