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Egyptians Vote In 2nd Day Of Presidential Election


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

The first free presidential election in Egypt is in its second day. Thirteen candidates are vying to replace Hosni Mubarak in what many there say is a wide-open race. The last election in 2005 saw Mubarak winning 87 percent of the vote against another candidate, a candidate he later threw in jail. Voter turnout yesterday was so strong, election officials kept polling stations open across Egypt for an additional hour.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Cairo. And Soraya, what is the turnout looking like today?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, it's a little slower, but that was somewhat expected. It was quite an exciting and long day yesterday. It's important to note that the government today declared another holiday to allow people to basically not go to work and stand in line again, because they are anticipating the crowds will increase as the day goes on.

MONTAGNE: And how is this, compared to those recent parliamentary elections?

NELSON: Well, certainly, it's as high a turnout, and if not even higher. It's - at this point, because exit polling isn't allowed and the authorities here will not be releasing any results, including voter turnout, until next week, you know, we don't know officially. But just if you eyeball it, it definitely looks like it's even more than then, and it was quite dramatic during the parliamentary elections.

MONTAGNE: Though with no exit polls allowed, any idea at this point who is ahead in the actual voting?

NELSON: Well, interestingly enough, some of the candidates' campaigns have sort of added to what the Brotherhood's been saying, in that Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, seems to be ahead - or at least that's what they're claiming. Even Amr Moussa's campaign - he, of course, is the former secretary general for the Arab League, and was in, at least in opinion polls, was ahead - even his people are saying that it looks like he will be second and that Mohammed Morsi will be first.

MONTAGNE: So when will these results be expected? And there will be, then, a runoff, right?

NELSON: Well, the way it'll work is if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then there will be a runoff between the two top vote getters. And the results at this point are not formerly expected until next week, although we'll probably be getting these dribs and drabs like we heard yesterday from the Brotherhood. I think the expectation is that the Brotherhood candidate will do well. Whether he finishes in the top two, we'll have to see. But they do have the largest political machine in terms of organization, in terms of campaign volunteers throughout the country. They're just much more organized than many of the other candidates.

MONTAGNE: And Soraya, what is the mood? I mean, what are people saying? Because what we were hearing the last day is that people seem pretty excited about their candidates and pretty excited about this poll.

NELSON: This is definitely one of the happiest times in Egypt for people since the revolution. It's amazing how engaged everyone is. I mean, everyone is talking about the elections, and they definitely have been looking into, you know, who these people are, what they represent, as much as they've been able to get out of the media, as much as they've been able to get out of the campaigns themselves. And it's a really interesting discussion, and such a contrast to what existed here when Hosni Mubarak was president, when certainly any political discussion was very much discouraged. I mean, the man was the leader, everyone was supposed to follow, and that's how it was. So it's - people are very happy about the freedom that this election has brought them.

MONTAGNE: The military, of course, is in effective control of Egypt at this point in time. Is there any sense that it won't hand over power at the end of this vote?

NELSON: Well, certainly, if Mohammed Morsi - the Muslim Brotherhood candidate - does in fact win this election, I think there will be some concern about having an Islamist-dominated parliament and an Islamist president to boot and having that much power in the hand of the Brotherhood, which, of course, is not necessarily allied with the ruling generals.

The generals have said that they will step down, but they've also made it clear they will amend the constitution, and they will do this without public approval. And if they, in fact, do this, it's pretty clear that what they'll do is enshrine their powers, to some extent, to retain control and prevent this Brotherhood domination and weaken the presidency.

MONTAGNE: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, speaking to us from Cairo, where Egyptians today are voting for a president.

Thanks very much.

NELSON: You're welcome, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

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