Egyptian voters disillusioned

Islamic parties have taken an overwhelming lead in the opening round of Egypt's first parliamentary elections since Mubarak's fall. However, the results are not final, as two further election rounds are to take place over the next two months.

­The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party gained 40 per cent of the vote, with the fundamentalist al-Nour Party claiming around 25 per cent.

But as RT's Paula Slier reports from Cairo, many in the streets feel their votes will carry little weight in their troubled country.

Long queues, vote-stained fingers and a record turnout – a rare sign of political interest in a country where decades of dictatorship have left little appetite for the power of the ballot.

The faces of candidates smile down at one from almost every street corner, and while Egyptians are excited to be voting in a real election, many believe that these smiles hide a hollow promise.

“I went to vote, but I destroyed my ballot. I wrote on it ‘down, down with the military power’,” says Nesma Mohammed, a local resident.

There are tens of thousands like Nesma Mohammed – young, unemployed and frustrated. They think it does not matter who they vote for, because the military will still make all the important decisions.

“The problem is what they will produce,” a Middle East correspondent for The Independent, Robert Fisk, told RT. “A parliament that cannot appoint the ministers, that cannot appoint the government whose Constitution – whatever it turns out to be – is going to be guided by the army.”

Many in Egypt say they will continue to camp out on Tahrir Square, the centre of the revolution, and in front of the parliament building.

Youth movement leaders, like Ahmed Abdrabo from the Democratic Front Party, are protesting at what they see as an empty vote offering no democratic mandate.

“We will be here and we will say: ‘No, you will not go inside your office, we have to stop you and you must go now, we don’t want to make clashes with you’,” he said.

Two more rounds of voting still need to take place, but the strong showing of the Muslim Brotherhood leaves little doubt that the Islamist parties will have a significant majority in parliament – for what it is worth. However, claims of a record 62 per cent turnout are already being questioned after a series of irregularities were reported. Bothaina Kamel, the country’s only female candidate for the presidency, is not surprised.

“We will be monitoring the election, just to collect their mistakes and their fraud,” she told RT. “We have a long, long way to democracy.”

But the West has been quick to praise the election as an important step towards change.

“Although the Americans are beginning to say the army must go to barracks, deep down they’ll be perfectly happy to keep the army where it is in Egypt,” Robert Fisk explained. “If you give US$1.3 billion a year to the Egyptian army, which the Americans do, you expect it to do what [the US] wants.”