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As Egyptians Vote, a Look Back
November 28, 2011

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Eventually, election day arrived. After most of a year of frustration about their political future, Egyptians went to the polls in the tens of thousands to cast their ballots for new members of the government. It was the first of a scheduled three rounds of elections, after which a new parliament will sit and wait for a new president, who will be elected in June 2012.

Ruling the country in the meantime will be the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been firmly in control since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak after decades in power.

The unrest began in the wake of the revolution in nearby Tunisia. Protesters gathered in the thousands in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in other places and cities, speaking out against Mubarak and his authoritarian regime. The crowds were so large day after day and the pressure from outside the country so immense that Mubarak and his government tried to appease the protesters, offering a large number of concessions, including a 15-percent pay increase to public workers. Some party leaders even resigned their posts.

But the crowds only grew larger and more determined to take action. On February 9, workers in the thousands went on strike. Other world leaders echoed the protesters' sentiments, and the Egyptian army did little to dissuade the sometimes massive protests. Mubarak gave up some of his presidential powers, but it wasn't enough. In the end, with few friends left, Mubarak resigned and fled to his seaside chalet.

It was at that the point that the generals stepped in, maintaining calm by promising a peaceful transition to a civilian government. The generals paved the way for a new governmental framework by dissolving the government and the constitution. In a special referendum, 77 percent of voters approved a new set of temporary laws

The generals made protesters very happy by disbanding the secret police, and police further showed their distaste for the trappings of Mubarak by standing by as the Interior Ministry burned, the victim of an opposition arson.

Despite this, protests continued, mainly because a large number of protesters had been arrested and tried in military courts. Finally, the ruling generals set a targeted date for elections.
Mubarak finally appeared in public, not long before he was summoned to trial but instead wound up in the hospital. The formal charges filed against him included some that could result in the death penalty. His trial, which began several weeks ago, has been postponed until December 18.

Angry at what they saw as the still slow pace of reformer, protesters took to the streets anew, with the result being more clashes with police. The ruling generals issued a statement saying that they would retain their power after elections, which convinced the protesters that what was needed was even more unrest.

The interim government resigned, and the ruling generals, who had just finished announcing a referendum on their power transfer, named yet another interim prime minister, a further cause for alarm in Tahrir Square. The result was more confrontations and more disbelief in the generals' true post-election intentions.

But when the first voters appeared on the first day of free elections in nearly 30 years, the mood was calm and the faces determined. What happens in the days to come remains to be seen.



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