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  November 28, 2011

Egyptians Debate Elections as Protests Continue

Voters torn between boycotting elections until demands are met, and voicing their concerns at the ballot box
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JIHAN HAFIZ, CAIRO CORRESPONDENT, TRNN: Egypt's military junta named a new prime minister late last week.

CHANTS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The Parliament doesn't govern! Dirty hands! Mubarak and the field marshal, dirty hands!

HAFIZ: But he hasn't been able to get to his office yet.

CHANT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Tantawi, we don't want you!

HAFIZ: Hundreds of protesters occupied the street in front of the building, and they did not budge even after an armored police vehicle ran over and killed a 19-year-old demonstrator.

AHMED MOHAMMED, COOK (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): He's 77 years old. What's he going to do? Ganzouri is from the old guard. You think we'll get him on trial? And then we'll get rid of the old system--legally, obviously.


HAFIZ: A few blocks away, thousands continue to occupy Tahrir Square for the tenth straight day. The military regime agreed to a ceasefire with the protesters, who formed a human wall to prevent clashes from starting again.

HUSSEIN, PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): There was a chain linked among the youth, and luckily the students and sheikhs from the Azhar joined us, which dissuaded the people who wanted to start trouble with the military. Thank God everything is peaceful. Today there is no aggression or anything at all.

CHANTS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): How despicable! Shame on you!

HAFIZ: But despite the relative calm, protesters say they will hold their ground until the military council cedes power to a civilian government.

ALIA, PHD STUDENT, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: The hardcore majority that are on the front lines are just people that are tired of this humiliation, and they want it over, and they're willing to give their lives for it, also 'cause they have faith that we will win.

HAFIZ: On Friday, tens of thousands gathered in Tahrir to condemn the violence against protesters that left over 40 dead, dubbing the first day of rest since the clashes broke out as the "Day of Martyrs". Religious leaders from the prominent Al Azhar institution lent their support to the protesters against the military council.

MOHAMMED, BUSINESS OWNER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): They're not even able to control the streets. The Egyptian military isn't able to patrol the street, but it can control the country and take care of the country?

HAFIZ: On Monday, Egypt holds its first elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak nine months ago. The balloting for the lower house of Parliament has driven a wedge through the country's pro-democracy movement. Many Egyptians in Tahrir vow to boycott the elections.

ZAMALEK SOCCER PLAYER: Many people's opinions, and mine, is this isn't the right time to have an election. You can't go vote while the demands still haven't been met. All the while, for the last five days, people are getting shot at and killed--and then discuss demands. I'm not convinced. The most important point is that there should be no elections until those responsible are brought to justice.

HAFIZ: But opinions on the elections are divided in Tahrir. Many say they will vote despite their doubts about the electoral process.

MIRIAM, FILM DIRECTOR: Because I think what they're doing is they're trying to confuse us and bring us all to Tahrir, so that the people that they want, the Muslim Brothers, that is, go and vote, and then we have a parliament of just Muslim Brothers. And we can't let this happen. If there is elections--of course, there will be--we cannot let them have it all.

HAFIZ: Egypt's most powerful political organization has been quietly preparing for the elections. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party is expected to win a plurality of seats in the People's Assembly. The Brotherhood was a major player in the January revolution that toppled Mubarak. But the organization has been absent from the latest uprising, instead choosing to cooperate with the military council.

DR. HAZEM FAROUK, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD LEADER, FREEDOM AND JUSTICE PARTY CANDIDATE: We support our martyrs and the Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square in their demands, but we conflict in our approach. We believe that change can happen, but only through elections, the ballot box, and through legal legitimacy, and not using lethal methods. Just as the military council has warned us, there still exists the invisible hand of the old regime with the support of the national security forces.

HAFIZ: By midmorning Monday, the Muslim Brotherhood's political gambit seemed to have paid off.


HAFIZ: The Real News Network covered the 2010 Parliamentary elections here in Cairo under the Mubarak regime last year, where we witnessed fraud and corruption. A number of supporters and candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood were literally pushed out of the polling areas, and the voter turnout was much lower than it is before. But as you can tell so far, the voter turnout is extremely high, and people here expressed excitement and optimism over the electoral process, saying only through the ballot boxes can democracy come back to Egypt. However, the question remains as to whether the results and the outcome of this election will strengthen the position of the military council. Meanwhile, hundreds remain in Tahrir Square, boycotting an election they say is invalid under a military junta which has blood on its hands. Jihan Hafiz for the Real News in Cairo, Egypt.

End of Transcript

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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