Egyptians go to the polls

2011-11-28 09:00

Cairo – Egyptians began voting today in the first elections since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in February in one of the most important moments of the Arab Spring.

At the Omar Makram school in the working class central Cairo neighbourhood of Shubra, men and women queued in separate lines before the opening of polling stations.

“It was no use to vote before. Our voices were completely irrelevant,” Mona Abdel Moneim, one of several women who said they were voting for the first time in their lives, told AFP.

Once in, the voters were told to wait because the judge supervising the balloting was running late – an administrative delay witnessed at several other polling stations by AFP reporters.

In the up-market Cairo neighbourhood of Zamalek, several hundred lined up for over an hour, some resting on chairs, before their polling station opened.

“I am sick and I wasn’t planning on coming, but what happened recently made me feel that I had to vote. For 30 years we were silent. It’s enough,” said Samira (65).

Mariam, a 37-year-old, said: “The parliamentary election is not the end, it’s the beginning ... It’s very important for me to vote, it’s very important for the country.”

Army and police forces were discreetly deployed around polling stations, but some voters wanted to provide extra protection.

Outside a polling station in Shubra, 10 members of the influential Muslim Brotherhood huddled together as a “popular committee” to protect voters.

One of them, 41-year-old Arabic teacher Ibrahim Mustafa, said their presence was a reassurance, but they wouldn’t fight back if attacked. “No, we will reason with them,” he told AFP.

In Alexandria, Egypt’s second-biggest city and a major port on the Mediterranean, about 200 people queued outside a polling station at a girls’ school in the Al-Raml district on the seafront.

Again, administrative delays prevented the start of voting on time.

“There are many parties contesting this election, so the best thing is for Egyptians to participate,” Amin, a 55-year-old physician, told AFP.

“Last year, there was nobody voting because it was only one party,” he said, referring to parliamentary elections in November and December of 2010.

Yussuf, a 25-year-old software engineer, added: “I’m voting for the future of Egypt. This is the first free election in our country. I hope it will be the first fair election.”

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