Egyptians vote in post-Mubarak parliamentary elections amid concerns

Laura Rozen

Egyptians turned out in large numbers to vote in historic parliamentary elections Monday--the country's first nominally free elections since the country's dramatic overthrow of its three-decade ruler Hosni Mubarak last February. In spite of the landmark nature of the balloting, recent unrest in post-Mubarak Egypt has prompted some observers to question the vote's legitimacy--chiefly because the country's new cohort of liberal secular political parties are either participating under protest, or with limited organizing skills, in comparison to the sizable Islamist faction in the nation's politics.

Long lines formed at polling stations around the country, as this video taken by Arabic news site Moraselon of the Muslim Brotherhood stronghold of Nasr City, posted to YouTube and linked by the aggregation site Storyful, shows:

Monday's vote was preceded by days of often violent unrest between protesters, police, and Egypt's interim military rulers, who have given mixed signals about their intentions for transferring power. Egypt's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is widely expected to do well in the parliamentary polls, in large part because of the group's experience organizing its supporters. By contrast, some of country's newer and more liberal secular parties are newcomers to the process, since they have only won access to the public sphere since Mubarak's ouster.

Egypt's "ruling generals have defied a week of protests to reiterate, more forcefully than ever in recent days, that they expect to yield almost no authority to the new Parliament, and might claim special permanent powers under the new constitution that the Parliament is to write," the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick reported Monday from Cairo. "The council's top officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, declared on Sunday that 'the position of the armed forces will remain as it is—it will not change in any new constitution.' "

With such concerns in mind, "many liberal candidates suspended their campaigns last week because of the protests," Kirkpatrick noted. Still, several liberals "said they were urging their supporters to go to the polls on Monday just to limit the Islamists' gains, even at the risk of appearing to legitimize a questionable result."

Egypt's military council has called for the newly elected parliament to be seated by March, and for presidential elections to be held next summer.

"So far so good," Council on Foreign Relations Egypt expert Steven Cook wrote at his blog of the parliamentary polls. The "elections are a strong riposte to those in Washington and elsewhere who have begun to bemoan the downfall of President Mubarak."

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