Small Brotherhood lead in early Egypt vote results

Small Brotherhood lead in early Egypt vote results

CAIRO -The Associated Press
Small Brotherhood lead in early Egypt vote results

Egyptian election officials count ballot papers at a polling station in Alexandria on May 24, 2012 after polls closed in country's landmark presidential election. AFP photo

Partial results from Egypt's first genuinely competitive presidential elections announced Friday showed the candidate of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood leading with a narrow edge in a five-way race.

This is likely to bring Mohammed Morsi to run-off elections scheduled for June 16-17 but leaves the question wide open as to whether he will win.

Egyptians voted Wednesday and Thursday to choose their first president after last year's popular uprising that ousted ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Contending for second place are Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh and leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, whose surprise last-minute surge brought a new element to a contest that looked like it was going to pit Islamists against former regime officials.

Across the country, election workers cracked open the transparent ballot boxes sealed by serial-numbered plastic bands to ensure they had not been tampered with and began working their way through the paper ballots. Ballots from 18 of Egypt's 27 governorates had been counted by mid-morning on Friday.

The Brotherhood is hoping for a presidential victory to seal its political domination of Egypt, which would be a dramatic turnaround from the decades it was repressed under Mubarak. It already holds nearly half of parliament after victories in elections late last year.

Results showed drops in the group's popularity since then, with the ballots cast for Morsi significantly fewer than the number the Brotherhood's party received in parliamentary elections. In several provinces, Morsi came in second or third place.

Many Egyptians who said they have voted before for the Brotherhood said they were let down by the group's hunger for power and poor performance in parliament. However, the group has a formidable ability to mobilize voters, and it was unclear how many disappointed Brotherhood voters chose another candidate or just did not cast a ballot.

The group's political arm said in a statement that Morsi is going to enter a runoff with Shafiq, which means another round of highly polarizing campaigning, since the Mubarak-era official is strongly opposed by leaders of the protest movement which were behind the revolution.