With Resignation, Egyptians Head To Polls For Second Round Of Voting
Many in Egypt today stayed home. That enthusiasm and joy to be voting in a free election for the first time had given way to resignation, during the second round of presidential voting, which started yesterday.
That's the picture reports out of Egypt today are painting.
Perhaps that was most evident with Hussein, a Cairo taxi driver that Ahram, the Egyptian newspaper, spoke to at one of the polls.
"Why should I vote? My vote doesn't count and the picture is very clear — they want [Ahmed] Shafiq and they are going to make him the next president whoever we vote for," he told the paper. But he voted and he also voted during the first round of presidential elections.
"At the time I thought we were having real elections but now I know it's a soap opera; just like the Ramadan TV series," he said.
This past Thursday, Egypt's high court threw the country into uncertainty when it declared that some parliamentary elections were illegal and thus the whole parliament should be dissolved. Many also saw the ruling of the supreme court — with most judges appointed before the fall of Hosni Mubarak — as a "smooth military coup."
Now Egyptians are faced with a stark choice: On the one hand is Mohammed Morsi, candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic group that won the most seats back in December and January. On the other is Ahmed Shafiq, a remnant of the old regime, the last prime minister under Mubarak, and who many see as representing the interests of the ruling military.
Another big question facing the country is whether the military will truly hand over power at the end of the presidential election, which has been the plan.
We'll keep this post updated with the latest. So make sure to refresh to see the latest.
Update at 9:49 p.m. Muslim Brotherhood Declares Win
Based on returns reported by the Muslim Brotherhood, the party has declared victory in Egypt's presidential election saying that its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, is the "first civilian, popularly elected Egyptian president."
Update at 9:08 p.m. Partial Results
The AP is reporting that partial results made public by the Muslim Brotherhood showed the race very close.
"With just over 80 percent of the more than 13,000 polling stations nationwide counted, Morsi had 52.5 percent of the vote and Shafiq 47.5 percent. The stations counted so far amounted to 22.6 million votes, but it was not known how many votes were left to tally."
The figures were from results announced by election officials at individual counting centers, where each campaign has representatives who compile the numbers and make them public before the formal announcement. The Brotherhood's early, partial counts proved generally accurate in last month's first round vote.
Official results are due on Thursday, according to the AP, though most returns will likely be known by early Monday.
Update at 6:31 p.m. Military Issues Interim Constitution:
Egypt's ruling military council will not be handing over power to a civilian government at the end of this month as promised, reports NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson from Cairo.
The announcement on state-run television came moments after the polls closed in Egypt's historic presidential race.
The network says the ruling generals will stay in charge of the country until a new constitution is in place. That could be as late as October, based on the time table the generals came up with, Sarhaddi Nelson says.
They also limited the power of whoever the new president will be, leaving him powerless over the military and its budget and stripping him of the authority to declare war.
The ruling generals also say a new parliament will not be elected until after the new constitution is in place.
A news conference is expected Monday to announce further details.
Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. Committed To Handing Over Power:
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, issued a statement saying the ruling military council was still committed to handing over power "on July 1 to a civil authority."
The statement says Tantawi said this during a conversation with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
"During the conversation, Tantawi said political transition in Egypt is progressing according to schedule, stressing the need for holding new parliamentary elections as soon as possible," the statement reads.
It's unclear whether new parliamentary elections can be done by July 1.
Update at 10:00 a.m. ET. Ruling Military Will Issue Constitutional Amendment:
Right after the high court decision to dissolve the parliament was handed down, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said his worry was that the country's next president would be too powerful.
"We are going to elect a president in the next couple of days without a constitution and without a parliament. He will be a new emperor, holding both legislative and executive authority and with the right to enact laws and even amend the constitution as he sees fit," ElBradei told The Guardian.
Now, the AFP and Ahram are reporting that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will issued a constitutional amendment that will likely fuel more of those fears.
According to Ahram, the new president will be sworn in by the High Constitutional Court instead of Parliament. And the unelected military rulers will serve as the legislative body while new elections take place.
"[SCAF] will also preserve the right to approve the general budget.
"However, the president will have the right to promulgate laws or object to them, as was the case under the 1971 constitution."
Update at 8:53 a.m. ET. No Lines This Time:
Evan Hill, a producer for Al-Jazeera just tweeted a picture of the "Othman bin Affan school in Al Omraneya Al Sharqeya district of Giza." It shows a a dusty, empty sidewalk and sunlight pouring through a wide open door.
"Last round, line went around the corner," Hill reports.
Update at 8:49 a.m. ET. Low Turnout:
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson tells our Newscast unit that many Egyptians are simply unhappy with both candidates. Remember, these two candidates are the ones who received the most votes during the first round, but that doesn't mean much because 60 percent of Egyptians did not vote for either.
"Turnout is low at many polling stations across Egypt, where some irregularities were reported," Soraya reports. "One complaint is about pens that write in ink that disappears after a few hours. Some voters allege such pens are being handed out by polling station workers in a bid to invalidate votes.
"At a televised news conference, presidential election commission head Farouk Sultan said the matter had been referred to the Interior Ministry for investigation."
Update at 8:32 a.m. ET. Watching The Economy:
For her report to air on Weekend Edition Sunday, correspondent Kimberly Adams went to El-Sharkia near the Nile Delta, north of Cairo. It's the birth place of both presidential candidates and a place where the results are expected to be very tight.
Kimberly spoke to Khalil Ahmed and his wife Sohair Abdel Azizz, who both said they will be voting for Shafiq. Even though Ahmed damned the Mubarak regime, he said he felt if he voted for the Muslim Brotherhood, there would be no guarantee that they wouldn't cling to power.
"If the Brotherhood gets control, it'll be like we were sold," he said. "But if Shafiq wins and we don't like him, we'll be able to get him out the next time we vote."
Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, told Kimberly that many voters like that are voting on the economic improvements promised by Shafiq.
"Even if voters [have] Islamist inclinations at the end of the day, they are watching the economy," said Hamid.
That's exactly what Azizz said. More year after the revolution, she yearns for stability.
"It's been a year now in God's torment," she said. "We don't sleep at night. We fear for our children and we fear for their future."