Islamist parties appear to gain majority of votes as Tahrir protesters call for a mass action on Friday
JIHAN HAFIZ, CAIRO CORRESPONDENT, TRNN: The military regime called them Egypt’s first free and fair elections. Fears of violence and apathy proved unfounded. Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak nine months ago were marked by a high turnout and a lack of incidents. The line stretched around the block at this polling station in Shubra, a predominately middle class neighborhood in Central Cairo. Judges of the high electoral commission arrived late to open the polling centers, and determined voters waited for hours to cast their ballots. For many Egyptians here, this was their first time voting.
ADEL, STORE OWNER, SHUBRA DISTRICT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I haven’t voted before, and this is my first time.
KHALAL AL OUTB, SHUBRA DISTRICT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): God willing, things will get fixed and life can get back to normal.
SAYEED ABDEL FATTAH, CARPENTER, SHUBRA DISTRICT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I just renewed my ID card. This is the first time I see such large numbers in an organized fashion.
HAFIZ: This was only the first phase of the first round of a drawn-out electoral process that will last until January. Electoral judges report the highest turnout they have recorded in 20 years. But some critics say it was not only enthusiasm that brought people to the polls. Voting is obligatory in Egypt, and those who do not participate are fined more than $80.
MOHAMMED AHMED, STORE OWNER, DARB AL AHMAR DISTRICT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Are people afraid of the fine? No. But whoever has come wants the country to move forward.
HAFIZ: Egyptians voted in droves, but some were confused about the process itself and who to vote for. Independent Egyptian media outlets reported the electoral authorities have received over 22 million inquiries from voters since September. Political parties were leafleting outside the polls while candidates campaigned inside of polling centers. Some local monitors in Shubra complained of irregularities and vote rigging.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The beauty of elections is that it is solutions-oriented. Everyone is in the streets, as expected, and that’s really great. However, what is unfortunate is that most of the forms belonging to El Fardy weren’t stamped.
HAFIZ: The results are not yet known, but in poor neighborhoods the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party seemed to garner the strongest support.
IBRAHIM IMAM, PENSIONER, DARB AL AHMRA DISTRICT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Khaled Mohammed and Nasser Aswan
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): That’s whom you voted for?
IMAM: Is there anyone better?
HAFIZ: The high turnout seems to have favored the Muslim Brotherhood. The organization has been especially influential in Egypt’s poorest neighborhoods, where they have set up free clinics and schools and provide food for the poor.
DR. HASSAM FAROUQ, FREEDOM AND JUSTICE PARTY CANDIDATE (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The Muslim Brotherhood is one of many supported groups in Egyptian society. We are partners in these elections. We support the candidates. And yet we are just one aspect of Egyptian society.
HAFIZ: Under Mubarak, the Brotherhood was banned from political activities, and its candidates were forced to run for other political parties. Candidates and supporters were regularly harassed and arrested on election day.
MOHAMMED AHMED, STORE OWNER, BROTHERHOOD SUPPORTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What we want is someone to properly represent us. These people are organized, and that will benefit me. This guy is organized, so he understands his path and knows his politics.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): And believes in God, too!
AHMED MOHAMMED EZZAT, ACCOUNTANT, BROTHERHOOD SUPPORTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We need to see if they are actually going to change the country or not.
HAFIZ: Now Brotherhood candidates roam the polling centers freely and their followers openly express their support.
IBRAHIM IMAM, PENSIONER, DARB AL AHMRA DISTRICT BROTHERHOOD SUPPORTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): They believe in God! And whoever believes in God will treat people well. We want to fix things, and so far it’s already happening. At this rate, we may even become the best country in the world!
FAROUK: We anticipate the Freedom and Justice Party will do well in the first democratic Egyptian elections, hopefully with approximately 30 percent of the seats.
HAFIZ: In Drab al Ahmar, a poor neighborhood in central Cairo and a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, many voters also cast their ballots for the first time.
ASMA MOHAMMED, TAILOR, DARB AL AHMRA DISTRICT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We came for the first time, and you couldn’t believe the tears and laughter!
HAFIZ: On the other side of town in Masry Gadida, a predominately middle- to upper-class neighborhood, many voted against Islamists in favor of secular candidates with close ties to the United States.
MAGDA MURAD MIKAIL, EGYPTIAN BLOC SUPPORTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Today I voted for the Egyptian Bloc because I support the Liberals, Liberal Democrats, and I am voting for the rights of workers under the Liberal model. I do not want a religious state, but a civilian-run secular government.
HAFIZ: One of the favorites in this affluent neighborhood is former Washington think tank analyst Amr Hamzawy, who formed the Freedom Egypt Party following the January 25th Revolution.
UNIDENTIFIED: Can you tell me who you voted for?
YASMINE ALIM MUKTHAR, MAKEUP ARTIST: Okay. Amr Hamzawy, Al-Kutla Al-Misriyya, and [incompr.]
UNIDENTIFIED: Why do you think these people are good for the country?
ALIM MUKTHAR: I think–I don’t know. I know Amr Hamzawy. I watched him a lot on TV. So that’s why I know he’s a good person.
MAHA NOUR, VICE PRESIDENT OF MANAGEMENT COMPANY: I voted for Al-Kutla Al-Misriyya, Amr Hamzawy, and [incompr.]
UNIDENTIFIED: And why do you think they’re good for the country?
NOUR: Because its combination of democratic liberal philosophy.
HAFIZ: Preliminary results indicate secular parties lost big, as the Muslim Brotherhood exceeded its own expectations, possibly winning as much as 40 percent. Meanwhile, the Nour Salafiists, an ultraconservative Islamist party, is forecasted to win more than 20 percent. If the results stand, Islamists would hold a dominant majority in the parliament. This week’s elections were held in the country’s most liberal districts, with upcoming balloting to be held in more conservative rural areas, further strengthening the position of the Islamists. Meanwhile, in Tahrir Square dwindling numbers of revolutionaries discredited the election as a farce. They argued that the military junta would never cede power unless forced to by demonstrations on the street.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I’m staying right here! Even if the military came with airplanes and tanks, I am not leaving this place until there is another option. The man who pays respect to the military council, the military, and leaves the square, he will not be considered a man. He will be humiliated in the streets.
HAFIZ: But Mohammed, who has slept six nights in the square, voted for the Brotherhood.
MOHAMMED SALIM, UNEMPLOYED, BROTHERHOOD SUPPORTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I voted for the Brotherhood. And I also don’t want [Field Marshal] Tantawi to stay, or any of Hosni’s cronies. We don’t want anything to do with the FM Tantawi, and we’ll perpetually not want him.
HAFIZ: With the first round of balloting over, all eyes in Egypt will be in Tahrir on Friday, when the next major demonstration is planned. It will test whether the sit-in can continue to put pressure on the military junta or whether the elections managed to quell the latest Egyptian uprising. Jihan Hafiz for The Real News in Cairo, Egypt.
End of Transcript
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