CAIRO: Polls opened Tuesday for a second day of voting in Egypt’s landmark parliamentary elections, the first since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in a popular uprising earlier this year.
The historic election — which promises to be the fairest and cleanest in Egypt in living memory — will show whether the country that is one of America’s most important Middle East allies will remain secular or move down a more Islamic path as have other nations swept up in the Arab Spring.
The turnout Monday, the first voting day, was massive despite security concerns and turmoil over a deadly spate of violence in the week before the balloting. It reflects the Egyptians’ determination to break away from the past after 10 months of frustration over how the military rulers who took over from Mubarak have been handling the transition.
"I am voting for this country’s sake. We want a new beginning," said Zeinab Saad, 50, who brought her young daughter to a polling station in Cairo. "Its a great thing to feel like your vote matters."
The voting process, long and complicated, is staggered over the next six weeks across 27 provinces, divided into thirds with runoffs held a week after the first round in each location.
Voters have to pick two individuals and one alliance or party slate — a mechanics that has left many among the 50 million eligible voters puzzled and apparently still undecided.
While the overwhelming majority spoke with excitement over getting to cast their ballot, a few headed to the polls to avoid a LE 500 ($85) fee imposed by the ruling military on absent voters. In some of the country’s populous districts, younger voters dragged their elders to make sure they would not have to pay the fine.
"I am voting here just because of the LE 500," said Walaa Mohamed, a 33-year-old office employee, adding she didn’t think the lines outside polling stations would not be so long if it were not for the fine.
In the Menshiya neighborhood in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, long separate lines of men and women waited patiently in front of polling stations, where the ground was littered with Muslim Brotherhood fliers as activists campaigned into the last minute, whispering to voters to pick their candidates.