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Massive turnout at Egypt's first free poll

world Updated: Nov 30, 2011 00:29 IST
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The head of Egypt's election commission said on Monday turnout was "massive and unexpected" for the first elections since Hosni Mubarak's ouster, with millions participating peacefully in a spirit of hopefulness that surprised many after new protests broke out in the days leading up to the vote.

Long lines formed again Tuesday at polling centers around the capital Cairo and other cities on the second and final day of the first round of parliamentary elections. The historic election - which promises to be the country's fairest and cleanest in living memory - will indicate whether the nation will turn down a more Islamic path with powerful religious parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood expected to dominate.

"I am voting for this country's sake. We want a new beginning," said Zeinab Saad, 50, in Cairo. "It's a great thing to feel like your vote matters."

The head of the High Election Commission, Abdel-Mooaez Ibrahim, said late Monday night that the turnout on the first day was surprisingly strong. He did not give any figures.

The huge turnout Monday - some voters waited in line for seven hours or more - was the biggest surprise so far in these elections.

On the eve of the vote, the country was in turmoil, deeply divided and confused after 10 days of new protests and clashes involving young activists demanding the country's military rulers hand power immediately to a civilian authority.

Instead, Egyptians showed a fierce determination to exercise the right to vote freely for the first time ever in their lives.

This time around, some hoped their votes would help push the military from power, while others were trying to keep the rising Islamist parties in check, yet a good number of Egyptians harbour deep doubts about the legitimacy and the relevance of the parliament that will emerge from an electoral process conducted entirely under military rule.