Voting begins in Egypt’s presidential runoff
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Voting in the second round of Egypt’s presidential election got off to a quiet start on Saturday with queues at polling station noticeably smaller than last month’s first round. Egyptians will choose between former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Moursi, with some voters vowing to abstain and cast a protest ballot.
“It’s a weird feeling – I’m excited, at the same time a bit scared,” Jehan, a female student at the German University in Cairo, told RFI as she waited outside at a polling station in the middle class Dokki area of Cairo.
Jehan says she will vote for Shafiq, claiming he has “more experience than the other candidate” while denying that he is a feloul, or remant of the old Hosni Mubarak regime. “I’m veiled,” she adds, referring to the Islamists. “It has nothing to do with that - I’m not convinced by the other candidate.”
Islam Mahmoud, a 35-year-old engineer outside the same polling station on El Sawra St, says “Egypt needs someone like Ahmed Shafiq”. He also cites the former air force commander’s experience as the reasoning behind his vote, believing that the Muslim Brotherhood’s rival will “overcome all the problems in Egypt”.
Ma Rosella, an English translator, says her vote is motivated out of fear for the country’s secular future. She says she will vote Shafiq for a “civil country - we don’t want a Muslim country”. Before the opening of polling stations she has already heard rumours that the Muslim Brotherhood “will prohibit some Christians from casting their vote”.
The lines of people waiting outside polling stations in Cairo early on Saturday were not as busy as during the first round of the elections last month. But it is too early to say whether this is indicative of turnout.
The first round of the election took place during Egypt’s working week, while the runoff begins during the weekend, with workers being given Sunday off work as well in order to cast their ballot. In other areas just outside of Cairo the situation is similar. In 6 October city, Al-Ahram reported that queues were shorter at the start of the day compared to the first round.
Many revolutionary groups are urging their supporters to abstain and cast a protest vote. Others have decided that it is better to choose the lesser of two evils and support Moursi. Despite not wanting to see an Islamist candidate in the runoff, some of the youth see this as a better alternative than Shafiq.
Mohamed Mohieddin, a sociologist from Menoufiya University, and long-time Tahrir Square protester, sums up the reasons for a spoiled ballot. He says there is the possibility of making a strong case against the victory of either candidate if the percentage of abstentions is high enough.
“We certainly have a crisis – but this crisis is not necessarily due to the court ruling,” Mohieddin says, in reference to the Constitutional Court’s decision to allow Shafiq to run in the second round, and dissolution of the Islamist-led parliament.
“It has severe political ramifications for stability, even for the legitimacy of the coming president. A lot of people are going to void their votes, they are going to cross on Moursi and Shafiq – I’m one of them,” Mohieddin adds.
Voting continues on Sunday with initial results expected shortly afterwards.
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