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News Wrap: Egyptians Cast Landmark Vote Without Violence

November 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: Wall Street shot up today after retailers reported record sales for the day after Thanksgiving. And early indications suggested strong online sales today, dubbed Cyber Monday by the industry. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 291 points to close at 11,523. The Nasdaq rose more than 85 points to close at 2,527.

The lines were long at polling stations across Egypt today in the first parliamentary elections since President Mubarak was forced out of office.

We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: It’s Egypt’s first free election, even if the soldiers supervising it still have the real power here. Egypt’s generals have pulled the strings here since the 1950s, but then came January’s revolution and today’s long queues to savor the taste of democracy.

Are you excited about today?

MAN: Yes, very excited, very, very excited.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Turnout was so high that voting hours have been extended. Last January, this was still effectively a one-party police state. And Egyptians can scarcely believe the changes.

WOMAN (through translator): We were afraid coming in here at the beginning, but they gave us the ballot paper nicely with no supervision and no pressure, not like in the past.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Now, a lot of Egyptians can’t read or write. So how are they going to vote? Well, they’re going to vote for a symbol instead. On this party ticket, you can vote for a tank. Up here, there’s a pair of sunglasses. There’s a pyramid. There’s a rocket over here. And if you want to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood, who are expected to win today, well, they’re represented by a set of scales.

The Islamist Brotherhood was outlawed for decades. Today, it was busy leafletting voters under the army’s gaze.

MUSTAFA FAWZI, Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary candidate (through translator): This bad image we have was caused by the media and by the past regime. The West has never given the Muslim Brotherhood a chance at anything. They don’t know us. It’s very unfair.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: These elections are historic, no question. But there’s also a great deal of uncertainty here. For a start, nobody knows how long the parliament that is being elected will be allowed to sit for. And Egypt’s generals, who run the country, still haven’t confirmed that a government will be formed from whoever wins this election. Still, this is a beginning on Egypt’s bumpy road to democracy.

And today’s elections even thinned the crowds in Tahrir Square. Some are boycotting the poll and demanding Egypt’s military leaders step down now. But thousands disappeared to vote instead.

KWAME HOLMAN: The day’s voting was free of violence, after recent clashes between protesters and police.

Elections also went ahead in the Democratic Republic of Congo for only the second time since the African nation’s civil war ended. Voting proceeded despite missing ballots and violence that killed nine people over the last 24 hours. President Joseph Kabila was expected to win a second term, but some opposition groups threatened to reject the results. That prospect raised fears of new conflict.

Attacks in Iraq ramped up today, weeks ahead of the final U.S. pullout of troops. The worst attack was outside a prison in Taji, just north of Baghdad, where at least 19 people were killed in a suicide bombing. Another attack hit in the heart of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area of Baghdad where many government offices are housed.

This was the first full day of the Arab League’s economic sanctions against Syria. Nineteen members, nearly all of the block, approved the penalties yesterday after Syria refused to end its crackdown on civil protest. Meanwhile, the violence continued. Activists reported more than 30 people were killed by government forces on Sunday.

Members of the Occupy protests in Philadelphia and Los Angeles still were in place today after evacuation deadlines came and went. In Philadelphia, protesters rallied in anticipation of the cutoff time Sunday afternoon, but police never moved in, and there were no arrests.

And, in Los Angeles, demonstrators filled streets around city hall hours after a midnight deadline. Four people were arrested for failure to disperse as police attempted to clear nearby streets.

A leading liberal voice among House Democrats is retiring after more than 30 years. Barney Frank of Massachusetts announced today he won’t run in 2012. He is 71. Frank was one of the first openly gay lawmakers in Washington. After the 2008 financial collapse, Frank helped push through tough new restrictions on banks and Wall Street, legislation that bears his name.

But, in Newton, Mass., today, he said legislating has become far too difficult.

REP. BARNEY FRANK, D-Mass.: The leverage you have within the government has substantially diminished. The anger in the country, the currents of opinion are such, so that the kind of inside work I have felt best at is not going to be as productive for the foreseeable future, and not until we make some changes.

KWAME HOLMAN: Frank also cited a redistricting plan that moved hundreds of thousands of new voters into his district.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.