CAIRO, Egypt — Egyptians cast aside worries over a new wave of unrest and waited patiently and peacefully in long lines Monday to vote in the first parliamentary elections since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, determined to reap the fruits of their uprising and have their choices count after decades of rigged polls.
The vote is expected to be the fairest and cleanest in living memory and more than anything else, it will serve as a litmus test of whether Egypt will go down a more Islamic path as other countries swept up in Arab Spring uprisings have done.
“I have hope this time,” said Amal Fathy, a 50-year-old government employee who wears the Islamic veil, as she patiently waited in Cairo to vote. “I may not live long enough to see change, but my grandchildren will.”
Since the uprising that forced Mubarak out nearly 10 months ago, Egyptians had looked forward to this day in expectation of a celebration of freedom after years of stifling dictatorship. But deep disappointment with the military rulers who replaced the old regime and a new wave of protests and clashes that began 10 days ago left the country deeply polarized and uncertain about the future by the eve of the election.
Many harbour deep doubts about whether elections held under military rule will really set the country on a path of democracy. Protesters who kept up their vigil in Cairo’s Tahrir Square throughout election day are demanding the ruling generals hand power to a civilian authority and accuse them of bungling the transition.
The parliament that emerges may have little relevance because the military is sharply limiting its powers, and it may only serve for several months. However, the election will give the clearest picture in decades of the real strength of the various political forces in this nation of 85 million.
Adding to the disarray, the multi-phase election process, which will stretch over months, is extremely complicated.