The strong turnout and smooth voting in a country with a long history of vote-rigging and electoral violence were a boost for Egypt’s military leaders, who promised a quick transition to civilian rule after they took control of the country in February but have since sent mixed signals about their commitment to a democratic transition. And the voting suggested that, despite 10 days of protests by Egyptians demanding the immediate departure of the generals, large numbers were willing to participate in a military-run transition — however imperfect.
“The people in Tahrir Square, yes, they are Egyptian, but they are not the only Egyptians in this country,” said Sameh Seif el-Yazal, a retired general and military analyst, who maintained that the ruling generals have done a good job under challenging circumstances. The military chiefs “proved that they are responsible,” he said.
By afternoon, even some of the protesters who have returned in recent days to the square in central Cairo, the heart of the uprising against Mubarak, were leaving in shifts, taking their turns in the voting booth.
Preliminary results for the provinces that began voting Monday were not expected until the completion of the second day of balloting Tuesday. But voters and analysts said they expect Islamist parties, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, to outperform their liberal competitors, who are scattered and less organized — a shift in power replicated in other countries shaken by the Arab Spring.
The Brotherhood, which Mubarak tolerated only as a weak political opposition, showcased its formidable organizational skills Monday. Outside polling stations, Freedom and Justice volunteers set up information tables to guide voters; others mobilized the party’s constituencies across the country.
Freedom and Justice’s vice president, Essam el-Erian, said party officials were optimistic about the first day of voting.
“It was a calm day, no violence, no confrontation, and this was unexpected,” he said Monday night, shortly after the polls closed. “I think we are in the front.”
Supporters of the Nour party, which is run by ultra-conservative Salafist Muslims, also appeared to vote in large numbers, leaving many here to assume that the democratization of Egypt will bring a government far more conservative than Mubarak’s.