Egyptians air grievances at first round election results in Tahrir Square

Yasmine Fathy, Friday 1 Jun 2012

Hundreds of protesters head to Cairo's main square declaring their dissatisfaction with the results of the first round of presidential elections and demanding the disqualification of Ahmed Shafiq before mid-June's runoff

A Photo of the protest in solidarity with Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, Friday, 1 June, 2012. (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

On the first Friday since the results of last week's presidential elections were announced, hundreds of Egyptians poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand that Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq be knocked out of the race.

Despite the intense heat and  the weather forecast authority warning protesters of the danger of sunstroke, marches continued to surge into the square as the day went on. Protesters mainly chanted against Shafiq, comparing him to ousted president Hosni Mubarak and demanding his exclusion from the second round of presidential elections in mid-June.

"If Shafiq is in the second round, then the revolution will also have a second round," protesters roared as they marched around the square.

"I am Egyptian and I am here to say that Shafik will rule over my dead body," members of another group chanted. Others shouted their approval to military rule.

Protesters also demanded the implementation of the Political Disenfranchisement Law, which bans all members of the Mubarak regime from entering political life. If the law is introduced, they believe, Shafiq who served as Mubarak's aviation minister and his last prime minister, will be automatically excluded from the race.

The law was passed by parliament but the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) referred it to the High Constitutional Court to determine its constitutionality. The court is expected to give a ruling on it in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, however, Shafiq entered the presidential race and came second in the first round which took place last week, putting him in competition with the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsi for the 16-17 June runoff.

The results enraged many revolutionaries who insist the law be applied so Shafiq is eliminated.

Heba El-Torgoman who came from Alexandria to join Friday's protests told Ahram Online that she had wanted Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi, who came in third place, to be Egypt's first post-Mubarak president.

"I don’t want Shafiq, he is a member of the old regime," said Torgman. "If Sabbahi had entered [the second round] he could beat Morsi."

Middle-aged Hussein Gaafar held two live snakes in a cloth bag, waving it around and telling onlookers that the creatures represented Shafiq and Morsi.

"I don't want either, they are both snakes," shouted Gaafar. "The elections were obviously rigged. Anyone who votes for Shafiq will have chosen a man who was responsible for the death of Egyptians during the Battle of the Camel."

The Battle of the Camel took place during early 2011's 18-day uprising against Mubarak. Thugs on camels entered the square killing 11 protesters and injuring hundreds. Many revolutionaries feel that Shafiq is partially to blame for the massacre because he was the country's prime minister at the time.

Another protester, Shaaban Attia said that that many revolutionaries were also angry at the military council's refusal to edit Article 28 of the constitutional decree. The article stipulates that any decisions made by SPEC are irreversible.

"They put this article in because they knew the elections would be rigged," Attia said. "Why else would they be scared if their decisions are questioned?"

Salma Kahky said that not only did she believe the election rigged, but the whole electoral process unlawful.

"I don't believe that the military council has the legitimacy to rule Egypt, so any elections under the leadership are also illegitimate," said Kahky. She added that it didn't matter if Sabbahi won since she refuses to accept the election process.

Abdel Rahman Gamsa, an elderly man from the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut said that he would vote for Morsi "because he is a man of God" but that the choice was not difficult to make.

"I'm a conservative Upper Egyptian, but I tell you that even if a woman runs against Shafiq, I would vote for the woman and not Shafiq," said Gamsa.

Shafiq was not the only candidate on whom the protesters focused their wrath, with fellow presidential candidate Morsi also getting some of the flack.

"The Brotherhood are not good, their members are even richer than Mubarak's mafia," Azza Mohamadein said, taking a break from chanting against the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie.

"The Brotherhood will take us back to the sixth century and Shafiq will take us back to the days of corruption and repression. They are both bad," agreed another protester, Abou El-Sayed.

Protesters continued pouring into the square into the afternoon, with one group setting a photo of Shafiq on fire. Many agreed, however, that the turn-out was much lower than they had expected.

"I expected a million-man march but only a few hundred turned up," said Mohamed Mahmoud. "But I think things will heat up before the runoffs begin."

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