Front-runner attacked on way to Egypt's landmark poll

The Military Council is taking the credit for the transition to democracy, but divisions remain

Cairo

The front page of yesterday's state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper said it all. Above a giant photo of a young soldier taking an elderly women by the hand and helping her into a polling station, a banner headline read: "The people regain their free will".

As Egyptians went to the ballot boxes for the second day of voting yesterday, the message seemed clear: the ruling Military Council, depicted in its photo by a kindly young recruit in a khaki cap and shades, had successfully guided the masses towards the completion of their historic uprising.

But in a sign of the problems that may lie in store, scuffles broke out in eastern Cairo after the arrival of Ahmed Shafik, the former air force chief who has become one of the front-runners to succeed Hosni Mubarak. Mr Shafik, who had come to cast his vote, has been sneeringly dismissive about those who led last year's uprising.

Leaving the polling station, he was attacked by shoe-throwing protesters, many of whom see him as the standard-bearer of the old regime. Yet his star has risen in recent months, thanks to the perception that he is the man to end months of street battles and economic uncertainty.

Perhaps more importantly, the former fighter pilot is believed to have the military's backing. High-ranking officials have denied this, but in the minds of many Egyptians – not least secularists and the Christian minority – a military man, however well connected to the old regime, would represent a lesser evil compared with the political Islamists who now control Egypt's parliament.

For many activists this is worrying. But for a military keen to shield its business and political privileges from civilian oversight, the pre-eminence of Shafik is preferable to the main alternative of populist political Islam.

For all the political jostling, this week's exercise in multi-candidate ballot has been a milestone of sorts. Yesterday, millions more voters arrived at polling stations acrosss the country. In some areas the turnout has not been as high as expected – a fact put down to hot weather and voter apathy after three rounds of parliamentary elections.

There were also numerous reports of violations, with long-dead voters appearing on election lists and busloads of supporters being shuttled to the polling stations. Yet overall, the election appears to have passed without any of the wide-scale fraud and intimidation that marred previous polls.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Engineers / Senior Electronics Engineers

£25000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in Henley-on-Thames, this...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project