Egypt Vote Count Begins After Runoff Presidential Election
Egyptian authorities began counting votes for Islamist candidate Mohamed Mursi and former President Hosni Mubarak’s last premier Ahmed Shafik as polls closed for a two-day presidential runoff clouded by the dissolution of parliament and polarization of the electorate.
The election has been overshadowed by the decision of Egypt’s highest court on June 14 to dissolve the Islamist- dominated parliament, followed by a decision by the ruling generals to lock the legislators out of the building. The court also threw out a law that would have kept Shafik, a career air force officer and Mubarak’s last prime minister, from running against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mursi.
The decisions were described by Islamists and youth activists as a “coup” by the ruling military council. The council issued a constitutional declaration as vote-counting began giving the military sole authority to oversee its own affairs, including its budget and personnel, Egyptian state television reported.
The military will also appoint members of the committee to write a new constitution if there is a “legal obstacle” to the existence of the current constitutional committee, according to the declaration. The declaration is valid until there is a new constitution, which must be written within three months and put to a public referendum, according to Egyptian television.
The Egyptian president can only declare war with the approval of the military, the declaration says. The rules stipulate that the next president will take the oath of office in front of the constitutional court in the absence of parliament. The declaration gives the military, the president and the prime minister the right to object to constitutional articles that run counter to “national security interests.”
The dissolution of parliament raised tensions at a time when the country’s economy is struggling to recover from 17 months of unrest.
“I had hoped we’d have a real change after the revolution,” said Mohamed Khaled, a 28-year-old doctor who was among those who treated the wounded during last year’s uprising that ousted Mubarak. “What we ended up with was the Brotherhood grabbing at power and the military fooling us all into thinking it was behind us.”
Officials have yet to release voter turnout estimates, though state television, citing its correspondents, reported it was between 40 to 45 percent in some governorates. Authorities twice extended the voting by an additional hour, until 10 p.m., in hopes that more people would turn out after the day’s heat wave subsided.
Many Egyptians said they would either boycott the process or invalidate their votes. The independent daily Al-Shorouk’s banner headline today read: “The Beginning... The Boycott Wins.”
Ballot counting will begin tonight after polls close, with official results released on June 21.
Shafik and Mursi were the most divisive of the 13 candidates who stood in the first round last month. The two men garnered a combined total of about 50 percent of the votes, with only about half of the 50 million Egyptians eligible casting their ballots.
Law and Order
Emad Kassem, a 36-year-old accountant who participated in the bloodiest days of last year’s uprising, said he invalidated his ballot today by voting for both men.
“The only choice I have is to not choose,” he said.
Shafik has run on a law and order platform, vilifying the Brotherhood as a secretive organization intent on dragging the country into “darkness.” Mursi, a last-minute entrant into the race after it became clear the group’s first choice would be disqualified, has sought to win over supporters by casting himself as the “candidate of the revolution” and reaching out to women and minority Christians wary of the Islamist rule he could bring to the presidency.
“We need an end to injustice, as well as security and jobs. Implementing Shariah is the best way to achieve that,” said Khaled Youssef, a 28-year-old garage attendant in Cairo who planned to make an hour-long trip to his home town of Fayoum to vote for Mursi. “If he’s not successful, we can always vote him out after four years.”
The tensions are affecting Egypt’s chances for an economic recovery. Fitch Ratings on June 15 cut the country’s foreign- currency debt by one step to B+, four levels below investment grade, citing “increased uncertainties surrounding the political transition.” Foreign reserves fell by more than half since the beginning of last year and a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund has yet to be approved.
The yield on Egypt’s 5.75 percent dollar bonds due in 2020 surged the most in more than two months following the ruling against parliament, gaining 16 basis points, or 0.16 of a percentage point, to 6.9 percent on June 15, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg.
The New York-traded Market Vectors Egypt Index (EGPT) exchange traded fund, which owns stakes in 27 companies that are either based or operate in the Arab country, dropped 4.8 percent in the two days following the ruling to the lowest level since January. The Egyptian exchange was closed today because of the voting.
While the Brotherhood is the most organized political group to emerge since the uprising, its decision to field a candidate after having pledged not to raised doubts about its intentions.
“They’re arrogant and power hungry,” said Saad Nasser, a 23-year-old Salafi Muslim who said he was voting for Shafik just to block Mursi. “They had a chance and they wasted it by pretending to be real Muslims. They’re no better than the old regime.”
The group’s spokesman, in comments run by the Ahram Gate website, said the ruling generals had “no right” to unilaterally issue an interim constitutional declaration. The military council was trying to continue injecting “disarray” in the political scene and should simply “pack up and leave after two weeks,” Mahmoud Ghozlan said.
Some activists saw the hand of the old regime at work even before the voting had concluded. The April 6 youth movement, which played a major role in the uprisings, complained of the detention of some of its members by authorities and warned the interior minister, in an emailed statement, “against any attempt to suppress protests after an illegitimate win by Ahmed Shafik.”
Others, like Ahmed el-Sony, a 19-year-old student, say they expect trouble if Shafik wins.
“I won’t accept a Shafik presidency and will return to Tahrir if he wins,” el-Sony said as he waited to vote for Mursi, referring to the square in Cairo that was the focus of the revolt against Mubarak.
-- With assistance from Mariam Fam and Ola Galal in Cairo and Zaid Sabah in Washington. Editors: Digby Lidstone, Ann Hughey.
To contact the reporters on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at email@example.com
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