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

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.