CAIRO - Ahmed Ali, a 44-year-old janitor, plans to mark a red "X" across
the names of both candidates in Egypt's presidential run-off when he
goes to vote this week.
He is part of a broader political trend
planning either to boycott the election or spoil ballots to protest
against a first-round result that produced a run-off between ousted
president Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister and a Muslim Brotherhood
candidate. Together, the pair obtained less than half the votes cast.
movement's strength suggests the political turmoil since Mubarak was
toppled 16 months ago may continue in post-election Egypt, whether the
winner is former air force commander Ahmed Shafiq or the Brotherhood's
"I am angry," said Ali. "Many Egyptians died in
the uprising last year and in the end we are being forced to choose
between the old corrupt regime we overthrew and a movement that has its
own Islamist agenda. I will spoil my ballot."
That anger has only
grown after a ruling on Thursday by the Supreme Constitutional Court to
let Shafiq stay in the race. The Islamist-led parliament had passed a
law that would have blocked election bids by top Mubarak-era officials.
That law was overturned.
"The way this transition has been
managed all along by (the ruling military council) shows no true
intention of a power handover to a truly elected civilian government,"
said Mohsen Sehrawy, 37, a marketing consultant, after the court decided
to allow Shafiq's candidacy but also ruled to dissolve the Islamist-led
"This has strengthened my resolve to void my vote," he said.
constitutional court said the rules that governed the parliamentary
vote that ended earlier this year were flawed, so the assembly should be
dissolved and new elections held.
Although some questioned the timing of the court's decision, legal experts had expected the two verdicts before the rulings.'Polar extremes'
Less than half of Egypt's 50 million eligible voters turned out for the first round vote in May presidential vote.
and Shafiq each won less than a quarter of votes cast, while two
centrist candidates who came third and fourth together won 40 percent.
That leaves many with an agonizing choice between polar extremes of the
"The majority of Egyptians want neither
candidate," said analyst Hassan Nafaa, who said some may spoil their
ballots and many more will not vote at all.
and others who oppose both army and Islamist rule, and whose demands are
still far from being met, would likely continue to agitate for change,
"I refuse to be a pawn in the military council's game
against the Brotherhood," said Hala Said, a 31-year-old marketing
manager, who plans to go to the polling station in a t-shirt bearing the
A council of military generals has ruled since
Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11, 2011. Many see Shafiq as the army's
preferred candidate, although the military say it does not back any
candidate and Shafiq denies he has the army's support.
first-round results have polarized the country and triggered a series of
street protests against the idea of a former Mubarak associate
returning to run the country.
Yet for some, the fear of Shafiq,
who looks to his opponents like a carbon-copy of Mubarak, trumps their
concerns about Morsy, who liberals worry will slap Islamic strictures on
"The elections are going to happen anyway," said Gamal Guemeih, a 29-year-old investment banker.
boycotting has a direct effect on the outcome, then it is better for
the revolutionaries to back a candidate who can provide them with the
most political concessions," he said.'Boycotters and voiders'
Thursday's court ruling, the army said the presidential poll would go
ahead on time. But now the president will be elected without a
parliament or a constitution in place.
Debate over who draws up the constitution was deadlocked for weeks until a deal was brokered by the army last week.
a second attempt by the parliament to appoint members of 100-strong
assembly to write the constitution has faced criticism from liberals,
just as the first failed attempt did. It was not clear what would happen
after parliament was dissolved.
The protesters are divided into
two camps, with one calling for voters to stay away from polling
stations and the other urging them to go to the polls to void their
voting papers, lest they be used by others to stuff the boxes.
The "boycotters" or "mokate'oon
" in Arabic said they did not vote in the first round and would not vote in the run-off.
labelled the election a "farcical charade" on one of their websites,
which warned that the ruling military council could direct some 6
million employees in state administrative bodies to elect its preferred
The army council insists it will ensure a fair vote.
The "voiders" or "mobteloon
in Arabic whose slogan is "No to military fascism and no to religious
fascism" hope to convince at least 10 million people to void their votes
as a political statement.
A number of politicians and activists have supported both, but others say it would be better at least to make a choice.
Nafaa said it was hard to determine which of the two candidates would benefit most from the boycott.
will get the entire Islamist current, and Shafiq will get the entire
network linked to the former regime," he said, adding that the centrist
voters would probably split between the two camps or not vote at all.