Tension prevails Egypt streets as nation goes to poll

Protest in Egypt
Cairo, Nov 27: Streets in Egypt were tense on Sunday as the country braced for its first vote since a popular revolt deposed former leader Hosni Mubarak.

Tomorrow"s election, that has been clouded by violence, demonstration and confrontation between the ruling military and pro-democracy protestors, will be the first step in a transfer to civilian rule, promised by the ruling army council that replaced Mubarak.

A confrontation loomed large between the ruling military and pro-democracy protesters, with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi warning the thousands camped at the Tahrir Square that no one will be allowed to pressurise the Army.

Protesters, who ousted the dictator nine months back, have returned to the iconic Tahrir Square, with their ire this time directed at Tantawi, the chief of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).

They also rejected the appointment of new 78-year-old caretaker prime minister Kamal al-Ganzuri by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces They vowed to stay in the square until the SCAF turns over authority to a National Salvation Government led by Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

Clashes renewed on November 19 between security and protestors close to Tahrir and left around 40 dead and
thousands others injured. Since then protestors have been calling on the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to step down and hand over the country to a civil government.

There have been many speculations about whether the elections will go ahead at all.

“I don"t want the elections to go ahead because I am scared. I am scared of violence and they are starting by Cairo as an experiment," says Mona from Cairo.

Mahmud, another Egyptian is more pessimistic.

“The elections will go ahead but there will be losses and blood spills because of the remnants of the former regime. The Muslim brotherhood and Islamists will win majority and then there will be more trouble when the likes of those are in parliament," he said.

The elections are being held by a new law placed by the SCAF. The three-phase parliamentary election that will last until January.

Elections are to be held through a mixed system — the individual candidate system and the closed party list system.

Many people have complained of the complexity of the system and the division of constituencies.

The new parliament will choose a 100-member committee to draft a new constitution for the country according to SCAF"s plan. As a result there has been tension between Islamists on one side and secularists and liberals on the other.

Both sides aspire to have the upper hand in drafting the constitution.

The growing influence of Islamists has been a source of huge concern for liberal and secular political forces who attempted to call for drafting a constitution first before elections in order to safeguard the civil nature of the state.

At present, Egypt has more than 50 official political parties. More than half of them were created after Mubarak was ousted.

The newly founded parties formed coalitions to run in the elections.

The Democratic Alliance includes Islamic and non-Islamic parties, but is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood"s Freedom and Justice Party.

Observers expect the Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamist movement, to emerge as the largest party, but without an overall majority.

The elections this time will take place under full judicial supervision but no international monitors will be present.

The Supreme Council for Armed Forces said the presence of foreign observers affects Egypt"s sovereignty.

Local civil society organisations will work on observing any irregularities. SCAF and the cabinet have stressed they are capable of securing the upcoming event.


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