Egypt votes: Shaky 1st step toward democracy
Voting began on Monday in Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising nine months ago.
The vote is a milestone many Egyptians hope will usher in a democratic age after decades of dictatorship, and CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports the thousands flocking to polling stations in Cairo seemed adamantly determined to cast their vote, with even slight delays to polls opening raising tensions rapidly.
The ballot has already has been marred by turmoil in the streets, and the population is sharply polarized and confused over the nation’s direction.
Given the novelty of open elections in Egypt, even the security forces policing the polling stations were struggling to do their jobs within entirely new parameters. Palmer says Army officers grappling with the new concept of transparency weren’t sure about allowing the CBS News crew to shoot video of actual voting. The commanding officer at the polling station, however, had been sent for a U.S. military training course in Alabama in the late 1990s.
“Suddenly,” says Palmer, “we were given carte blanche.”
In spite of the violence before the polls opened, and the tension as the voting got underway, the vote promises to be the fairest and cleanest election in Egypt in living memory. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best organized group, along with its Islamist allies are expected to do well in the vote.
Voters stood in long lines outside some polling centers in Cairo well before they opened at 8 a.m. local time, a rare sign of interest in political participation after decades of apathy created by the mass rigging of every vote.