Egyptians voted yesterday in the country’s landmark presidential runoff, with the choice of an ex-prime minister under ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and an Islamist candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood after a race that has deeply polarized the nation.
The two-days of balloting will produce Egypt’s first president since a popular uprising last year led to the fall of Mubarak, who is now serving a life sentence.
The runoff pits Ahmed Shafiq, who was a career Air Force officer like Mubarak against Mohammed Morsi, a US-trained engineer. The winner will be only the fifth Egyptian president since the monarchy was overthrown nearly 60 years ago.
Shafiq is viewed as an extension of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime while Morsi has raised fears of more religion in government and restricted freedoms if he wins.
The election is supposed to be the last stop in a turbulent transition overseen by the military generals who took over from Mubarak, but the issue of whether they will genuinely surrender power by July 1 as promised has come under question, particularly as the military-backed government this week gave military police and intelligence agents the right to arrest civilians for a host of suspected crimes — a move that was widely interpreted as a de facto declaration of martial law.
On Thursday, judges appointed by the former president before he was toppled dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and ruled that Shafiq could stay in the race despite legislation barring Mubarak regime figures from running for office.
“The revolution was stolen from us,” merchant Nabil -Abdel-Fatah said as he waited in line outside a polling center in Cairo’s working-class district of Imbaba. He said he planned to vote for Shafiq.
“We can easily get rid of him if we want to, but not the Brotherhood, which will cling to power,” he said.
Brotherhood supporter Amin Sayed said he had planned to boycott the vote, but changed his mind after the rulings this week by Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court.
“I came to vote for the Brotherhood and the revolution and to spite the military council,” he said outside the same polling center in Imbaba, an Islamist stronghold.
“If Shafiq wins, we will return to the streets,” he said.