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Muslim Brotherhood Shows Strong Performance In Egyptian Election Results
2012-05-25 03:01:26 (222 weeks ago)
Posted By: Intellpuke
Egypt's historic presidential election was on a knife edge early on Friday as first results pointed to a commanding performance by the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi, who is now likely to go on to compete in a run-off vote next month.

Morsi's apparent lead was trumpeted by the well-organized Islamist movement soon after the polls closed on the second day of the two-day vote – the first time Egyptians have ever had a genuine choice of leader.

With fewer than 10% of the results declared, the overall outcome was still far too close to call; but the two leading contenders will fight a tense French-style second round on 16 -17 June. If Morsi's position is confirmed, he will face either a rival independent Islamist or one of three other frontrunners.

Earlier, in a dramatic development, the former Arab League chief Amr Moussa moved to dominate the center ground by calling on Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister and his chief rival for the "stability" vote, to pull out.

"We need to build on the revolution and not go back to the days before it," Moussa told al-Arabiya TV. "I am calling on Shafiq to withdraw from the presidential race. I want to put a stop to his campaign if he wants to return to the past."

Shafiq, derided by critics as a discredited fuloul (remnant) of the Mubarak era, insisted he would not withdraw. Both candidates have been targeting millions of Egyptians who want an experienced politician regardless of their role under Mubarak.

(story continues below)

Daytime temperatures soared into the mid-30s Celsius (mid-90s Fahrenheit) as Egyptians voted in the most important election of the Arab spring. Excitement was palpable as state media provided blanket coverage of a largely peaceful process and urged citizens to do their duty.

"The People regains its free will" and "Egyptians in the queue for democracy" were among newspaper headlines as the country's 51 million-strong electorate enjoyed the extraordinary novelty of choosing a new leader without knowing the result in advance. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, leading a monitoring mission, praised the conduct of the vote.

State TV broadcast pictures of General Sami Enan, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff, visiting polling stations and repeating the military's pledge to hand over power to a civilian president by the end of June.

"We are confident that Egypt's next president will be Mohammed Morsi," said Essam al-Arian, a senior Brotherhood official. "These elections are being followed not only by Egyptians and Arabs, but the entire world is waiting with bated breath for the results." Moussa's campaign office also put Morsi in the lead.

Analysts say one likely permutation is a run-off between Morsi and Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, the Brotherhood renegade and independent Islamist. In the past few days, there has also been a surge of support for Hamdeen Sabbahi, the independent Nasserist candidate.

"The run-off will be very intense whatever the permutation is," said Hani Shukrallah, the veteran commentator on al-Ahram newspaper. "And whoever gets elected will be walking into a minefield."

Only isolated incidents of low-level violence were reported; but the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights recorded violations in the form of bribes being offered on behalf of Morsi, Shafiq, and Abul Fotouh. There were claims of votes being sold and, according to election monitors, a Morsi supporter distributed meat, sugar beans, lentils and oil to voters in Qena governorate.

Polling stations stayed open for an extra hour to boost turnout, apparently below the 60% mark achieved in parliamentary elections earlier this year. Counting was conducted at the stations in the presence of candidates' representatives, the media and NGOs to avoid the risk of fraud.

The result is only due to be announced officially next Tuesday, but Egyptian media was expecting to be able to report the outcome overnight based on computer data and statements by campaign representatives.

Voters admitted they faced tough choices. Hamada, a Cairo hairdresser, told al-Ahram he would vote for the "corrupt" Shafiq to protect his livelihood.

"We don't want an Islamic state, although we believe in the revolution. We need a force to counteract the Islamist-dominated parliament … we need someone to secure our jobs, to allow our wives to walk in the streets and help us raise our children safely.

"I know he's a thief, corrupt and a liar but who isn't? The two Brotherhood candidates [Morsi and Abul Fotouh]? Of course not! And Sabbahi won't reach the second round. I'll lose my job if an Islamist becomes president because my job will be forbidden. Our revolution has been stolen."

Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Middle East Editor Ian Black, reporting from Cairo, Egypt, in context here:

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