Egypt embraces its revolutionary day of democracy

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Huge turnout and little violence as first poll since the fall of Hosni Mubarak gets under way. Alastair Beach reports from Cairo

Enormous queues of voters turned out yesterday for an election which could eventually remould the Middle East, as Egypt's first democratic ballot in decades appeared to pass off without violence.

Lines stretching for more than half a mile began developing early in the morning as Egyptians emerged in droves for a poll unlike any since the military coup of 1952, which ushered in 60 years of autocracy.

"This is the first step in the road of democracy," said Farouk Hamdi, 27, a lawyer voting in Shubra, an area of northern Cairo where large numbers of Christians live. "There is a very difficult road ahead but I am positive about the future."

For the past few weeks, the streets have been alive with the kind of electoral energy unthinkable in the time of the former President, Hosni Mubarak, or his predecessors.

Egyptians have spent years living through predictable, pre-wired elections. But yesterday voters were presented with a choice of more than 55 political groups competing for the 498 seats in Egypt's lower house of parliament, the People's Assembly.

Neighbourhoods were festooned with posters and banners advertising the campaigns of more than 6,600 candidates, with politicians from the hard left to ultra-conservative religious right aiming to claim seats. The Muslim Brotherhood is expected to be the biggest winner, fulfilling a decades-old ambition of rising to power after years of persecution by successive regimes.

A huddle of girls in headscarves standing outside a polling station in northern Cairo told The Independent why they would be voting for the Freedom and Justice Party, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood established after Mr Mubarak was deposed.

"They will be better than the other parties at running the country," said one of the girls, before she was shooed away by an older woman. Another voter in Shubra, Mohammad Sobhi, a retired army officer, said he too would vote for the Muslim Brotherhood. Sitting in a teahouse with a newspaper folded on his lap, the 62-year-old said: "Islam has a solution to every problem in the world."

Before yesterday's poll there were fears that the first round of voting could be marred by abuses reminiscent of Mubarak's time. Human rights groups criticised media coverage of the parties in the run-up to the ballot. According to Mona Nader, of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights, the agenda of state-run newspapers such as Al-Ahram has been biased against a slew of new, secular parties that have emerged since Mubarak's fall. "These papers totally ignored the liberal parties," she said.

Others criticised the choice of judges who were selected to oversee the election process. "They are the same judges who monitored the last elections," said Bassem Samir, of the Egyptian Democratic Academy, referring to the widely discredited parliamentary poll of 2010.

But with tens of thousands of troops dispatched to polling stations across the country, there were few reports of serious violence – a far cry from previous elections when mobs of baltagi, or hired government thugs, disrupted the process.

Yet the road remains dangerously uneven. Activists still have their stranglehold on Cairo's Tahrir Square, demanding from their tent city that the Military Council immediately hands power to an interim civilian government.

"The elections are fake. They are bullshit," said Mohammad Habib, 37, in central Cairo yesterday. "It's not right to kill us and then ask us to vote," he added, referring to recent unrest in which dozens of protesters were killed.

Elections to Egypt's lower house are not due to end until January, while voting for the Shura Council, the legislature's upper house, will not conclude until March.

The contenders: Egypt's political parties

Freedom and Justice Party

Widely predicted to be the biggest winner of the parliamentary poll, the party, led by Mohammed Morsi, was established by the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under the former regime. It says it is seeking a constitution that respects Muslims and non-Muslims; it calls for gender equality, but says women must strike a balance between family duties and public life.


The oldest party in Egypt, led by businessman Al-Sayyid al-Badawi, right, was once at the forefront of liberal politics as one of the few opposition parties licensed by Mubarak. It now faces a challenge from the emergence of many other, younger liberal parties, and was criticised for its participation in 2010's sham elections. Formerly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, it is now running independently. It advocates a liberal economy with a strong public sector.

The Free Egyptians Party

The main liberal counterweight to the Muslim Brotherhood, it believes in establishing a civil state, a position opposed by Islamists. The party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, above, has leaders including Hani Sarie-Eldin, a former chairman of the Egyptian Capital Market Authority. It advocates free-market policies, the separation of state and religion, ending class inequalities and expanding the middle class.


This was the first party set up by Salafists, who follow a strict interpretation of Islam. It wants sharia law and advocates freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and stronger local government. It also wants job creation through small and medium-sized firms, and banks to use Islamic financing that avoids charging interest. Pictured above is candidate Nada Abo El-Maty.

Jenny Stevens

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
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

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam