Anxiety, excitement as Egyptians vote

2012-05-23 16:07
Cairo -Excited, anxious, even a little confused, Egyptians across this vast capital city went to the polls on Wednesday to cast their ballots in the first presidential vote since the 2011 uprising.

At the Gamal Abdul Nasser school in the Dokki neighbourhood, some arrived an hour before polls opened, with men queuing to the right, women to the left of a school gate guarded by armed soldiers.

Rania Mohammed, 37, wearing a grey trouser suit and a light scarf tied back to reveal her pearl earrings, was second in line on the women's side.

Fifteen months after the fall of president Hosni Mubarak in last year's popular uprising, Mohammed was still trying to make up her mind who to vote for, even as she waited to cast her ballot.

"I'm choosing between two, I don't want to say who, but I'll decide when I'm in the booth. You can say that the pen will decide!" she laughed.

Despite her last-minute indecision, Mohammed said she was excited.

"I'm very happy that we are actually going to choose our president."

In the men's line, 62-year-old Nabil Girgis said he had thought long and hard about who to choose.

"I prayed in the morning and asked Jesus to lead me to the right thing," he said, declining to identify his chosen candidate in front of other voters.

New era

"I'm crossing my fingers, hoping for the best, but I'm worried about the Islamists," he said quietly.

"Over 60 years I haven't even thought to elect, because I wasn't confident in the process," he said. "This is the first step, and it's a new era."

Inside the school, a judge administered the process, handing certified ballots to voters in return for their national identity cards.

The voters stepped behind screens to make their choices under educational posters, including one with numbers in French, hung on the school's chipped walls, then placed their folded voting paper in the ballot box.

One woman, in a green scarf and smart brown trouser suit, seemed to pause as she placed her vote in the ballot box slot, as if savouring the moment.

"Goodbye," she said to the vote, as she dropped it in, smiling, before dipping her finger in indelible ink and taking back her identity card.

Watching the process was Amena Ibrahim, 24, an observer for the campaign of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi.

Her eyes, ringed with bright turquoise eyeliner, sparkled as she described casting her vote in a presidential election for the first time.

"I can't imagine that we're really voting for our president," she said. "I don't know what to say, I'm just really happy."

Making a decision

In a notebook, she kept a tally of voters coming in to the station, where over 4 000 people were registered.

At the nearby Shaymaa school, lines were longer, with tempers starting to fray as the temperature rose.

Ahmed Gamal, an architect, smiled as he came out with his fingertip marked with blue ink.

"It was perfect. It's so nice to feel you can make a decision," he said.

Inside, a female judge, her face framed by her black headscarf, watched eagle-eyed over the process, warning observers not to talk to voters.

Some participants seemed a little confused.

"Can I choose more than one name?" an elderly man called out from his booth.

"No, no! What? Do you want one president or two?" the judge replied.

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