Africa
3:00 am
Mon November 28, 2011

Egyptians Cast Ballots In 1st Stage Of Parliamentary Elections

Originally published on Mon November 28, 2011 4:26 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's turn to the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, where hundreds of women lined up at one polling center this morning.

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MONTAGNE: For many in this women's line, this is the first election in which they feel their choice will count. We reached NPR's Soraya Sorhadi Nelson in Alexandria. Good morning.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And generally speaking, what are you seeing at polling stations there in Alexandria?

NELSON: Throngs of voters. It's amazing how many people turned out even before the centers opened, and very eager to cast their ballots in this election where most people feel they have a choice for the first time. So - and what's also interesting is you have people for various political parties handing out brochures and pamphlets outside the polling centers. Now, the official campaign period actually ended a couple of days ago, but the police did not seem to be stopping these campaign people from handing out their literature.

MONTAGNE: And there's been a lot of news about the protests in Cairo, Tahrir Square, leading up to today's election. What has it been like there in Alexandria?

NELSON: Well, last week there were very violent clashes here between a smaller group of protestors, if you will, who tried storming the security compound. There were several deaths reported here, lots of tear gas lobbed here as well. But generally, for the past several days it's been very quiet with everybody focused on the election. And it's also important to note that today the police, where normally they have a bad reputation, or they've had a bad reputation, I should say, with Egyptian people, they've been very, very pleasant and polite and answering voters' questions. The interaction is something that I certainly have never seen here before. And it really was focused on the elections. Everything - the entire effort today seemed to be focused on the elections. I should mention that there will be some neighborhood watch committees going around town trying to make sure that in fact no, you know, that no violence occurs, that no thugs come out or that there's no intimidation of voters.

MONTAGNE: So if there's no violence today during the actual voting, are you seeing, though, irregularities, the sorts of things that might suggest the corruption that's occurred in past elections in Egypt?

NELSON: At this stage there doesn't seem to be any of that. What is interesting, though, is that the ballot boxes that I saw inside the stations here, they don't seem to have the seals that one might see in other - or that at least I've seen in other elections, let's say in Afghanistan or Iran. These are just regular boxes with a lock on them. And certainly the papers, the ballots, there's no number. There doesn't seem to be any sort of serial number that's crossed off to ensure that there aren't additional things being thrown in there. But having said that, there are civilian committees that have been assigned by the independent judicial commission that's overseeing the elections to ensure that there are no irregularities.

MONTAGNE: And have you been able to talk to voters about how they're voting for?

NELSON: Yes. There are many who seem to be interested in the Freedom and Justice Party here in Alexandria, which, of course, is the political party that the Muslim Brotherhood has put together. Certainly their campaign workers were out in force this morning handing out brochures. And many people feel that they will be an honest broker. I mean, they were in parliament once before unofficially, since obviously the Muslim Brotherhood was banned during the Mubarak era. But now they have a much stronger political base, they have a much stronger political machine, if you will. They're out in force to get out the vote. And so the feeling is that they will do very well here in Alexandria.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson speaking to us from Alexandria. Thanks very much.

NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.