Friday 19 January 2018

Clashes as Egypt goes to the polls for a second day

Women wait outside a polling station during presidential elections in Cairo. Photo: Reuters
Women wait outside a polling station during presidential elections in Cairo. Photo: Reuters

Tom Perry and Tom Pfeiffer in Cairo

Millions of Egyptians, choosing their leader freely for the first time in their history, were voting for the second consecutive day yesterday, in a fraught contest between Islamists and former officials of President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled last year.

After six decades under authoritarian, military-backed rule, Egypt's 50 million eligible voters may entrust the most populous Arab nation to an Islamist president for the next four years, alongside the Islamist-led parliament they elected earlier.

But secular figures like ex-Arab League chief Amr Moussa (75) and Mubarak's last premier Ahmed Shafiq (70) are in with a chance, appealing to Egyptians wary of radical change.

If no one wins more than half the votes needed for outright victory, the top two candidates will contest a June 16 and 17 run-off.

With two days of voting in the first round almost over, Egyptians seemed increasingly polarised between those determined to avoid handing the presidency back to a man from Mubarak's era and those fearing an Islamist monopoly of ruling institutions.

Some voiced fears of a backlash on the streets, particularly if Shafiq, who like Mubarak was air force commander, triumphs.

"If Shafiq or Moussa wins, they will create a revolution. Everyone will go down to Tahrir again," said one voter, Sherif Abdelaziz (30) who backs the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi.

Shafiq and Mursi supporters clashed in a village north of Cairo yesterday, wounding five people, police sources said.

The strongest Islamist candidates are Mursi (60) of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most influential political group, and ex-Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh (60).

Leftist Hamdeen Sabahy (57) is a dark horse in the race.

Irish Independent

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