A moment of truth for the Arab Spring as 50 million vote in Egypt

Nation's first democratic election brings long queues – and a contest that's too close to call


Egyptians made history yesterday as millions of people queued up outside polling stations for a presidential election that many are hoping will end more than five decades of successive dictatorships.

Long lines of voters began snaking out of schools and colleges early yesterday morning, as ordinary Egyptians turned out to cast their ballot in what is still very much an open race to elect a successor to Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by last year's revolution.

"This is a new experience for all the Egyptian people," said Abdel Halim, a 52-year-old who was voting in the ramshackle west Cairo district of Imbaba. "We are going to choose a new man to become our leader – and we have never done that."

Around 50 million people are eligible to vote in the poll – the first genuinely democratic presidential election in the nation's history. But the stakes could not be higher. Victory for any of 13 candidates will pose serious questions about the future of a country that Egyptians like to call "the mother of the world".

Whatever the result, it will trigger a ripple effect washing over sensitive areas of policy – from the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which Islamist and leftist candidates intend to review, to reform of the police and security services.

And the victor will have to contend with a military establishment that is reluctant to cede privileges to any future civilian administration.

"I feel great, but at the same time I'm very worried," said Mohamed Shiha, an estate agent whose ambivalence epitomised the anxieties that many Egyptians are carrying into this election. Mr Shiha was casting his vote in Zamalek, an upmarket island on the Nile where only Cairo's wealthiest residents can afford to live. "I am a liberal and I think Egypt needs a liberal president. We cannot give all the powers to the Islamists."

Egypt's new parliament is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, once a rigidly disciplinarian force that is increasingly divided between a conservative leadership and a more reformist elements. Its presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, is considered one of the main frontrunners.

In a show of strength yesterday, microbuses were seen shuttling female Brotherhood supporters to polling stations in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. Yet the prospect of the organisation controlling the presidency and parliament has caused alarm among some voters – particularly within the minority Christian community – who fear the growing clout of political Islam.

Mr Shiha said he was voting for Amr Moussa, Mr Mubarak's former Foreign Minister whose campaign has appealed to many voters growing wary about the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Moussa, who has been cast as the frontrunner in a series of opinion polls, is a secular candidate whose robust denunciations of Israel made him so popular that an Egyptian crooner penned a hit song about him in 2001.

Yet his rise – along with that of the former air force chief Ahmed Shafik – has left some voters aghast. Many young activists who helped spearhead the uprising believe the election of a former Mubarak official would be a huge step backwards. "There are people in Egypt who still don't understand the situation properly," Ahmad Sa'ad, a 40-year-old taxi driver, said. "They will just vote for Amr Moussa because he is a good guy."

According to Sama el-Nagdy, a campaign co-ordinator for leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, the popularity of Mr Moussa is a result of bias in Egypt's state media.

"The media tells voters that they won't have a life, or won't have a job, unless they vote for Amr Moussa."

It is a charge disputed by Mr Moussa's campaign team, which also notes that its candidate quit government more than a decade ago.

But millions of voters still remain undecided. Layma Kamel, a consultant for Mr Moussa's campaign, told The Independent that internal polling shows that 30 per cent of voters had still not made up their minds about who to choose.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed