Egyptians head to the polls in crucial election

Lower than expected numbers of Egyptians have turned out to vote in the second run off of the presidential election.

Cairo, Egypt (Picture: Simona Scolari)

Egyptians have been voting in the second round run-off – a two-way fight between two polarising candidates: deposed president Hosni Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik, and Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi. The winner will become Egypt’s first freely elected president.

The New York Times has described the low turnout as “a sign of a low morale and lack of enthusiasm” in the democratic process. The headline in the independent newspaper Al Shorouk summed up the general mood of apathy with the headline:  “The beginning … the boycott wins.”

It is highly likey that the low turnout is a reflection on the candidates Egpytians have to choose from, too. Far from offering a fresh start, the two men vying to become Egypt’s new president are faces from the past with their fair share of political baggage.

Ahmed Shafik will forever be associated with the reign of Hosni Mubarak, who was removed from office during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011. Earlier this month Mubarak was given a life sentence for his complicity in the killings of protesters during last year’s uprising against his reign. Shafik’s opponent, Mohamed Morsi, is the Muslim Brotherhood’s chosen candidate. Some Egyptians predict the country becoming an Islamic theocracy if Mr Morsi wins.

Since Mubarak left office, Egypt has been governed by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), a council of military generals. The military council has pledged to return power to the Egyptian people once the elections have finished. However, in a move that has been interpreted as a consolidation of its authority, Scaf dissolved the Egyptian parliament earlier this week. The BBC has reported that some Eqyptians see the move as a “naked power grab.”

The New York Times says that “if Mr. Morsi wins, he will face a prolonged struggle for power against the generals, while Mr. Shafik …could emerge as a new military-backed strongman unrestrained by either a constitution or Parliament.”

Scaf has vowed to hand over power to the winner by 30 June.

UPDATE: Election commission delays run-off result announcement

Allafrica.com is reporting that the Egyptian election commission has postponed the release of the official election results. Both candidates have claimed victory in the presidential election.

Allafrica.com says that ‘the state-run news agency MENA reports that the election commission decided to delay announcing the outcome because “it needs more time to review appeals based on alleged voting irregularities submitted by Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi and by Ahmed Shafiq.”‘

Meanwhile, the health of former president Hosni Mubarak continues to be the subject of intense speculation. Social media sites were ablaze with rumours of his  death earlier this week, although media reports have subsequently said that Mubarak is alive but remains in intensive care. Other, conflicting, reports say that his condition is stable and improving, however.

Mubarak was moved from his prison cell to a secure hospital following concerns over his health.

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