Egyptian Election: Split Vote Keeps Centrist Candidates from Advancing

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: In Egypt, a runoff presidential vote was formally announced today. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi will face Ahmed Shafiq. Shafiq is a military man. He served as the last prime minister under the old president Hosni Mubarak. Mursi and Shafiq got the most votes in last week's first round election, but neither got a majority. Reporter Ursula Lindsey in Cairo says it's a disappointing matchup for many Egyptians.

Ursula Lindsey: Almost half of the votes in the first round went not to the member of the Muslim Brotherhood or the member of the former regime who will be facing each other in the second round. They did go to candidates that people thought represented change. They went to an Islamist moderate candidate who was an opponent of the Mubarak regime. They went to a leftist candidate who was also a lifelong opposition activist and opponent of the regime. But the vote was split between them and others so they didn't get what they needed to proceed to the second round.

Werman: So was this a tactical error then by moderates and the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring?

Lindsey: Well, there's a lot of soul searching over this now and some regret, but you know, it was the first election of this kind and people voted for the candidates that inspired them. And it was also a very short campaign period. There was one month and the support for the candidates, the moment of the different candidates had changed very fast over time, so it was hard to predict what would happen.

Werman: How surprised are Egyptians by this stark result, Ursula, I mean the second round will pit a former Mubarak insider against a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Are people surprised?

Lindsey: I think people always suspected that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate would have a fairly strong showing. I mean the Muslim Brotherhood has a very strong organizational backbone and very committed supporters, and they shouldn't be dismissed entirely. A lot of their members and supporters did in fact participate in the revolution even if their vision for Egypt after it may be quite different from that of secular revolutionaries. I think a lot of people are surprised and very upset at the strong showing of Ahmed Shafiq, the former general and head of the Aviation Authority and prime minister under Mubarak. He was Mubarak's prime minister appointed during the uprising, then he you know, sort of resigned in disgrace. And I think this is a figure that people did not think they would see again on the national stage.

Werman: And the turnout in this first round, 46%, did that meet expectations? Was it higher or lower than the parliamentary vote earlier this year in Egypt?

Lindsey: It was lower than the parliamentary vote and it's something that people have pointed to already, so not only will the two candidates who will make it to the second round have only gotten half of the vote between them, but it will be half of a pretty low turnout, especially when you, I mean this was a very historic election and the first time that the Egyptians could truly elect their president. The turnout low and the people point to this as a sign that confidence in the process and in the political transition was already low before this election took place.

Werman: I mean as polarizing as the results are, it should be said that half the voters did cast their votes for a centrist candidates. What now for those voters? Have you spoken to any of them and how are they feeling?

Lindsey: They're disappointed and they're facing a very tough choice because now they have to choose between the two extremes that are exactly what they were rejecting with their choices in the first round. And there's a lot of people trying to figure out whether to boycott or whether even if they don't like either candidate, there's you know, one of the two that they really want to make sure doesn't get in, and so it's a very bitter choice for a lot of people, although I think they're still struggling with it.

Werman: Reporter Ursula Lindsey in Cairo. Thanks very much for the update.

Lindsey: You're welcome.