Via NY Times, by Karim Faheem and Liam Stack
CAIRO — Faced with what he called an impossible choice — between a conservative Islamist with a rigid social agenda and a former minister with deep ties to the Mubarak government — Ahmed Abdel Fattah, 33, plans to sit out the remainder of the voting for Egypt’s president and hope for better choices in four years.
“I am not going to play in this dirty game,” Mr. Abdel Fattah, a subway worker, said Friday, explaining why he could not support either Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, or Ahmed Shafik, President Hosni Mubarak’s final prime minister, who will compete in a runoff vote next month. “This is not democracy. These elections are a joke.”
The bubbling enthusiasm that ushered in Egypt’s landmark election last week has given way, for some voters, to a range of darker emotions, including resignation, frustration and anger, as the limits of a fledgling democracy became clear. It was the latest of Egypt’s post-revolutionary mood swings, and it fell hardest on supporters of several candidates who were eliminated from the race. Those supporters have found it difficult — if not impossible — to support the remaining two candidates, who embrace far less moderate platforms.
Sensing the disillusionment, both candidates made moves on Saturday to widen their bases of support and portray themselves as more centrist, sometimes by dramatically reversing their previous positions. At a news conference in Cairo on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Shafik, who had compared Egypt’s youthful revolutionaries to a disrespectful child, now praised the “martyrs” of the uprising and promised to return the fruits of the “glorious revolution” to the youth.
He urged people to vote in the June runoff, and spoke kindly about several of his competitors, including Hamdeen Sabahi, the founder of a Nasserist party whose populist campaign drew millions of voters, giving him a surprising third-place finish in the unofficial vote tallies.
Saying he was willing to collaborate with other Egyptian political forces, Mr. Shafik sought to quiet fears that he represented the government of his friend Mr. Mubarak, saying: “There is no turning back.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, tried to ease a different strain of voter anxiety — fears that the Islamist group, which holds roughly half the seats in Parliament, would dominate Egyptian politics should Mr. Morsi be elected. Brotherhood officials were trying to meet with several of the disqualified candidates on Saturday to discuss a possible coalition to challenge Mr. Shafik.
Mr. Morsi’s campaign was especially anxious to woo supporters of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former leader of the Brotherhood who was expelled from the group when he decided to run for president. A spokesman for Mr. Aboul Fotouh, asked on Saturday about suggestions by Brotherhood officials that he would be endorsing Mr. Morsi, said he was not, though it was not immediately clear whether that ruled out a future endorsement.
At another news conference on Saturday in Cairo, Jimmy Carter, the former United States president, said that while the vote last week had been “encouraging,” his election monitoring group had not able to certify the process as proper because monitors were given limited access.
“There were many violations and each violation was serious, but collectively they did not violate the integrity of the elections as a whole,” said Mr. Carter, who led a delegation of election monitors in Egypt. “The Egyptian people have accepted the process we have seen over the last few days as quite successful.”
Later on Saturday, a spokesman for Mr. Sabahi told Reuters that the campaign was seeking to halt the runoff for reasons that included allegations of “irregularities” during the first round of voting.
With little evidence so far of widespread fraud, voters were left to contend with what some lamented as their severely restricted choices. A few people argued that the outcome was inevitable: that an electorate battered by a chaotic transition and under temporary military rule would easily reach for candidates who appealed to fear rather than hope.
“They made the people reach the level where all they can think about is security and food on the table,” said Mr. Abdel Fattah.
Nadia Ibrahim, 34, a housewife, spoke of a dilemma rooted in a fear that the country would reverse course. “I can’t bring myself to vote” in the runoff, she said. “If the Muslim Brotherhood wins, they will be another N.D.P.,” she added, referring to the former ruling National Democratic Party, whose burned-out headquarters on the Nile is a testament to the revolution’s anger.
“If Shafik wins, the N.D.P. will be back. This is a decision I can’t bring myself to morally make.”
Hussein Gohar, 45, a gynecologist who is a leading member of the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said that even people with no candidate left in the race needed to stay involved and think strategically. “I’d rather fight against Shafik,” he said. “If I fight the Muslim Brotherhood, I’m the minority. If I fight against Shafik, I have more revolutionary forces with me.
“No one wants revolution anymore,” he added. “The opposition will continue, but it has to be organized and under one leadership.”
And many other people interviewed since the election hailed it as a success.
Mohammed Abdel Moneim, a 35-year-old taxi driver, said that though he was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he and his family had been impressed by the Brotherhood’s appeals during the campaign.
“They’re organized, they have a project and they’re not thieves,” he said, adding that if the Brotherhood performed poorly, Egyptians would make their displeasure felt, by methods including protests in Tahrir Square, ground zero for the revolution.
“We’re no longer afraid,” he said. “If they’re not good, the square is always there.”
Dina Salah Amer contributed reporting.