After Tallying First Votes, Egypt Plans Runoff Election

May 28, 2012
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. It's official - in Egypt, two presidential candidates will compete in a runoff. Today, authorities announced the results of last week's election. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate got the most votes, but he fell far short of the majority needed for an outright win. And so next month, he will have to face the second-highest vote-getter.

And second place went to a man who symbolizes the regime Egyptians overthrew last year. He's a former prime minister under Hosni Mubarak. As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, many are questioning how the election turned out this way.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Farouk Sultan, who heads Egypt's presidential election commission, announced the results that the media here had predicted for days.

FAROUK SULTAN: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: He told reporters at a televised news conference that just shy of a quarter of the voters had cast their ballots for the Muslim Brotherhood's Muhammad Mursi. He once headed the movement's political party that now holds nearly half the seats in Parliament. Close on Mursi's heels was the retired air force general Ahmed Shafiq, who was the last head of government before the Mubarak regime was ousted. The remaining 11 candidates, including the former secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, were shut out, according to the official tally.

ABDEL MONEIM ABOUL FOTTOUH: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Some candidates, like moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, alleged fraud, but the appeals were denied.

SULTAN: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The commission's Sultan described the historic poll as a testament to the will of the people, and predicted it would secure the future of post-revolutionary Egypt. But in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of last year's uprising, farmer Mohamed Ahmed says the opposite is true.

MOHAMED AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: How can Mursi and Shafiq get all those votes? Aqmed asks - adding, one is with the government, one is with the Brotherhood; and the people don't want either.

Another passerby, Maggid al-Sayd, says the election was fair. But the 47-year-old accountant adds: The results were a severe blow to the Egyptians who helped oust Mubarak.

MAGGID AL-SAYD: Revolution was very good thing, but I don't think revolution deserved what happened now.

NELSON: His fiancee is Suma Ahmed(ph), a veiled IT worker, who says the two candidates in next month's runoff make her uncomfortable.

SUMA AHMED: Both of them don't have any new vision regarding the future, OK?

NELSON: Khaled Fahmy, who chairs the history department at the American University in Cairo, also expressed disappointment over the outcome. But he has a different take on what it means.

KHALED FAHMY: We made the revolution to create another option. But I think that we have created the other option, in the sense of opening up the political system now. Witness the very large number of people who cast their ballots; and the much more open political system that we now have, compared to what we had only a year ago.

NELSON: He credits the Muslim Brotherhood's grassroots political base for Mursi's victory, and the entrenched remnants of Mubarak's regime for Shafiq's win. There is one thing that could change next month's runoff: a pending court review of the Islamist-dominated parliament's attempt to ban Shafiq from running.

SULTAN: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The election commission's Sultan says he and his colleagues will deal with that question only if the ruling goes against Shafiq. But some anti-Shafiq protesters were not prepared to wait. Dozens attacked his main headquarters, setting it on fire. Anti-Shafiq demonstrations were also reported in downtown Cairo, and the northern port city of Alexandria.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.