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In Egypt vote, little enthusiasm for presidential finalists

The winner of Egypt's presidential election may be known by Monday evening. NBC's Richard Engel reports.


The second voting day Sunday for Egypt’s first democratically elected president had a markedly low turnout, a showing that many attributed to disappointment with both lackluster candidates.

Scattered voters strolled into the Victoria School voting center without delay and quickly registered their choices for the two finalists in the presidential run-off: Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak-era official, and Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist engineer. 

“They hate them both,” said Wael Ghoneimi, owner of an advertising agency.  “It’s not the election we were waiting for for 30 years.” 

Despite their individual preferences, all voters were concerned about post-election violence if Shafiq, the former prime minster, should win. 

The presidential elections in Egypt are currently underway, just after the Egyptian high court this week suspended the nation's parliament. NBC News' Richard Engel reports on the recent developments in both Egypt and Syria.

“If Shafik wins, the situation will be very critical,” says Kareem Ali, a gynecologist and a supporter of Morsi, candidate of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.  

Physical therapist Zain Abdine also thinks the Muslim Brotherhood would protest a Shafiq victory. “They ask for democracy but they don’t play by the rules.  I fear there is going to be some violence in the street among the Islamists (if Shafiq wins).  But I have great faith in our armed forces.  They will be able to control whatever happens.”

Right now, the ruling Military Council is trying to do just that.  Reportedly, they will declare a new constitution annex defining the powers of the new president in the next two days.  Egypt’s former constitution had been suspended and was supposed to have been determined by a constitutional assembly.  Because the Muslim Brotherhood tried to dominate the 100-member constitutional assembly, plans to form the decision-making body broke down twice and effectively left the country without a functioning constitution.  

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The constitution would have determined the right of the president to appoint ministers and other state officials and the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of government.

The country could not be in greater political disarray.  A president will have been elected but without defined authority.  The composition of a constitutional assembly will likely be determined by the military. 

The predominantly Islamist, democratically elected parliament was dissolved by a recent Supreme Court decision.  The Muslim Brotherhood disputes the verdict, arguing that the ruling military council does not have the power to implement the court’s verdict.  The parliament building is now surrounded by military forces to prevent legislators from entering without permission.   

People have practiced democracy a lot since the revolution.  They have already voted five times.  But practice has not made perfect.  The results of two of those elections have already been overturned.  No wonder they head to the ballot box reluctantly, or not at all, as they enter what could be the beginning of a new chapter of turbulence rather than the democratic transition that reflected their deepest hopes.   

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