As Egypt votes, excitement and long lines mark the day


Egyptians, both young and old, fill out their ballots in Egypt's presidential election on May 23, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. Some 50 million Egyptians were registered to vote in the first presidential election of the post-Mubarak era. Voting takes place Wednesday and Thursday, but could go to a second round June 16-17 if no candidate wins an outright majority of the vote.


John Moore

CAIRO — As Egyptians go to the polls today to vote in the first round of balloting to select a new president, long lines met exuberant voters in the streets. In a first for Egypt, the next president is not a predetermined conclusion.

Hoda Tammam, a Cairo resident from Upper Egypt and mother of two, told GlobalPost, "I'm going to vote Mohammed Fotouh. I think he's going to fulfill our demands. The reason is he will give us our 'horraya,' our freedom, bread, social justice. These are the demands of the 25th of January revolution. We trust him."

More from GlobalPost: Special Report: Egypt votes 

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that even for undecided voters, the mood was one of excitement. ''Today I am so proud to be voting. We have 13 candidates to choose from and I have waited until the very last moment to decide," said Mohammed Ahleen, a fruit salesperson.

Thirteen candidates are running for president, and the top four are Amr Mussa, a former foreigner minister and Arab League secretary-general; Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, a liberal Islamist; Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood; and Ahmed Shafiq, a member of the old regime and critic of the revolution, the Los Angeles Times wrote. 

More from GlobalPost: Egyptian women challenge rights abuses, militarization

The Nation described the atmosphere leading up to the vote as "a frenetic mix of excitement and anxiety" in which debate over the future of the country is being held freely and in the open. "[C]onversations about the election spill out from cafes, bus stops and public squares, blending into the cacophony of Cairo traffic."

"Each vote counts. This is the freedom we've been aspiring toward. I was so excited I nearly sunk all my finger into the ink after I voted," Ahmed Rashid told the LA Times. 

To avoid a runoff election on June 16-17, a candidate has to secure over half the vote. Since a clear majority is unlikely, the final winner is expected to be announced June 21, according to the Associated Press

But, The New York Times reported, there is no constitution that sets the president's powers in stone. So even if the first and second rounds of voting go off without a hitch, questions about the future of the presidency still loom large.

More from GlobalPost: Raw Feed Cairo: Egyptians prepare to vote (VIDEO)

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military council that rules Egypt and is also known as SCAF, said it would respect the vote and hand over power once a new president has been selected, but some are doubtful. 

GlobalPost asked 20-year-old student activist Ziyad Ahmed, who was holding a banner urging Egyptians not to vote for Mubarak-era candidates, if he thinks SCAF will hand over power following the vote. He said definitely: "No."

"Because after what they [SCAF] did in Muhammed Mahmoud and Abiseeya and Maspero" -- references to police brutality or negligence that led to violence -- "they won't give their neck to anyone who will kill them. They will give the presidency to anyone SCAF knows will leave them free." Ahmed is a member of the youth movement Revolution Without A Party. 

SCAF has vowed to hand over power on July 1, according to The New York Times.

For whichever candidate wins, the tasks before him - fixing the economy, shaping the character of Egypt's new government, and reorienting relationships with countries like Israel, the United States, and Israel - will be "monumental," wrote the AP. 

"May God help the new president," Zaki Mohammed told the news wire.

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Tagged: EgyptMiddle East.