For the first time in the life of Egypt

For the first time in the life of Egypt

Hala Elkholy CAIRO - Hürriyet Daily News
For the first time in the life of Egypt


Everyone is out voting in Egypt. Neither the heat nor the length of time queuing is deterring many. There is a mood of festivity and appreciation of the unique moment in history muddled with the anxiety of where the stick will fall.

Amidst the heightened fear of the secularists of anything Islamic, the support of the old guard has risen, their claim being they will restore order and gradual is better. This is a difficult choice for Egyptians; for the first time in their lives, in their history even, they have a choice to make, and quite a consequential one.

For many it was probably much easier to say yes or no or to have just one president to choose and then continue to criticize the demise of the country anyway. There has been no nook or cranny in the past three weeks where the topic of conversation day and night has not been either an attempt to decide or an attempt to convince others of your point of view.

Nothing forgotten

But the anxiety should subside once everyone has cast his or her vote. Today is the second and last day of the first round. The poll stations are scheduled to close at 8 p.m. There are 51 million people eligible to vote, and it is expected that turnout will be massive. From what I have seen and heard, the level of integrity seems to be within accepted ranges, mostly lack of organization that can indeed complicate the process, especially with the number voting. Hailed as a historic moment, there has been no forgetting what it took to get that far. Yesterday I met a lady who lost three of her family and yet, clad in black with a picture of a young man dangling around her neck, she stood to help the voters, patiently answer any questions, and even provide them with water. Speculations are plenty; the best case scenario for many would be a runoff between an Islamist and a secularist. Even then the choice might be tricky for some as the two leading secularists are seen by some as part of the old regime. For now, it is enough for all to know that they finally have a voice and that it actually counts. The runoff scheduled for June 17 might be a different matter altogether. Or not!

Candidates vote alongside with voters

Egyptians enjoyed seeing presidential hopefuls queuing alongside them to vote, in scenes a world away from past elections when state TV filmed a cosseted Hosni Mubarak casting his ballot amidst doting officials with no ordinary voter in sight. In one Cairo district, 75-year-old Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League secretary-general, stood in line with everyone else.
“I hope they will elect a president who can really lead Egypt at this time of crisis,” he said. Some voters clapped independent Islamist contender Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, 60, when he too joined a queue in Cairo.

Policeman shot dead

“For the first time the Egyptian people went out to choose their president after the end of an era of ‘pharaohs’,” Abol Fotouh said, alluding to Mubarak and his autocratic predecessors who, like him, were drawn from the top ranks of the military. Among other contenders are Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister. Initial results expected on May 27. Meanwhile, an Egyptian policeman was shot dead when he was caught up in a gunfight between supporters of two presidential candidates outside a polling station in Cairo, security officials said.

Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff