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Egyptians face civil unrest, political change

Nicole Toczauer | Monday, November 28, 2011

Crowds lined the streets of Cairo on Monday to cast their votes in Egypt’s first parliamentary election since the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from office in February.

Political science professor Asher Kaufman said the election in an important step for the Egyptian people almost one year after the revolution that sparked the Arab Spring.

“This is the first time since the early 1950s that they’ve been able to vote. There have been elections [in the past,] but they have been predetermined,” Kaufman said. “The party in power would expect seats in parliament and presidents could win most of the vote. The question now is: what will be the outcome?”

The week leading up to the first day of the election was not without violence in Tahrir Square. Kaufman said skirmishes between police and protestors killed more than 40 people.

“There were less causalities than in spring, but this has also stopped because we’ve arrived at the climax of election day,” Kaufman said. “Those who oppose the military council say the military will curtail the new parliament, but it’s impossible to know what will happen.”

While the polls functioned Monday, Kaufman said the lack of voting infrastructure forced some to wait in line for up to six hours.

“The military council promised to give power to a civilian government, but there are skeptics who believe otherwise,” Kaufman said.

Tension between demonstrators and the military government has led to a disjointed Egypt, Kaufman said.

“Unlike a year ago, there is no unified front,” Kaufman said. “Not all parties that demonstrated last year participated again, so the unity that defined the movement a year ago is no longer there. There are disagreements, so there are reasons for a possible continuation of violence. There is a cause to be worried.”

While the Muslim Brotherhood was active in the spring protests, Kaufman said the group was not a major player in the streets. Instead, he said the party was organized in its campaign and is expected to win a dominant role in Parliament.

“The polls have not been closed yet,” Kaufman said. “But there are signs that the Muslim Brotherhood envisions a major victory. If they win, we will see an entirely new political landscape in Egypt. However, it is not certain what would be the official policy of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially in a secular democratic branch of the government.”

Despite civil turbulence and an uncertain future, Kaufman said Egypt has entered a new era.

“Democratic processes are bringing down rulers,” Kaufman said. “The Western world welcomed the Arab Spring and the downfall of Mubarak. So long as it continues with little interruption, this could be a positive evolution. Still, there are too many question marks to be sure yet.”