Egyptians Watch for Results, Signs of Presidential Vote Rigging

BY Larisa Epatko  May 23, 2012 at 12:20 PM EDT

With this week’s presidential election representing the end of the transition from a military to civilian government, many Egyptians will be watching not only the results but for a clean process as well.

Egyptians are voting in the first round of elections on Wednesday and Thursday for a number of reasons: the economy, security, and an end to military rule, said Erin Cunningham, GlobalPost’s reporter in Cairo. But “the most crucial thing is people see Egypt moving forward [and] away from being ruled by a group of generals.”

Overall, people are excited about the elections, she told us by phone. (Read her latest story on the lead-up to the elections.) “People are debating in the streets, there are posters everywhere.

“The last year and half has brought so many surprises for Egyptian politics,” and people have resigned themselves to not being able to predict who will win or get the most votes in the first round, said Cunningham. “But they’re really enthusiastic and I think more so than during the parliamentary elections, at least from what I’m seeing and hearing on the streets.”

As for a repeat of the massive protests in Tahrir Square that led to then-President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, people are waiting to see if elections are fair before taking to the streets again, Cunningham said, adding that if Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister under Mubarak, makes it to the second round and people believe the results are rigged to allow someone from the old regime to win, that might trigger protests as well.

Pre-election polls are unreliable because so many Egyptians are undecided, but some candidates have risen to the surface, including former foreign minister Amr Moussa, independent Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh and the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi.

Cunningham said although the Islamists won “hands down” in last winter’s parliamentary elections, they might not take the presidency. “A lot of people have grown wary of them in the time since they were elected, and people voted for the members of parliament for a lot different reasons [mainly local politics] than they’re voting for a candidate for president,” she said.

“For the presidency, people are taking pride in the fact that they’re choosing a leader for the nation. And a lot of people have said that ‘this isn’t about me, this is about the entire country and how we’re perceived abroad,’” she added.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will go to a runoff on June 16 and 17.

Cunningham assessed the mood in Cairo for us in January, a year after Egypt’s revolution started. On Wednesday’s NewsHour, we’ll have more on the presidential elections.

The NewsHour has a partnership with the international news website GlobalPost. View all of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter.