Egypt Elections, Largely Peaceful, Draw Big Turnout
Unexpectedly large crowds of Egyptians on Monday defied predictions of bedlam and violence to cast their votes in the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak
The apparent success of the initial voting surprised the voters themselves. After a week of violent demonstrations against the interim military rulers, many said they had cast their ballots out of a sense of duty and defiance, determined to reclaim the promise of their revolution, even as the ruling generals said they intended to share little power with the new Parliament.
“The revolution started so that our voice has a value, so we have to do what we are supposed to do,” said Lilian Rafat, 23, who stood in line for more than four hours, even though she put the chances of a legitimate result at only about “50 percent.”
But the large turnout on Monday, despite long delays and sporadic violence, raised the possibility that when the last phase of voting is completed in March, the process may result in the first broadly representative Parliament in more than six decades. The opening appeared to bring the Muslim Brotherhood, a once-outlawed Islamist group, one step closer to a formal role in governing Egypt. And, for the first time in 10 months, it offered the promise of moving the debate over Egypt’s future off the streets and into the new legislature.
For now, though, the act of voting itself appeared to vent to the public’s anger after a week of clashes that brought hundreds of thousands out in Cairo to demand that the military hand over power to a civilian government. Abandoning talk of a boycott, protest leaders urged supporters to go to the polls. And the diversion, along with a swell of pride in the historic vote, drained the continuing occupation of Tahrir Square to just a few thousand demonstrators.
“It is like a play, it is like a sham. We are pretending to be voting,” said Rabab Abdel Fattah Mohamed, 30, a doctor demonstrating in Tahrir Square. “I know these elections don’t mean anything, but I am still going.”