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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora