CAIRO, Egypt – Turnout was miserably low, voting irregularities were prevalent, and the result – President Hosni Mubarak’s re-election – was known from the start. Still, some in the opposition said Friday that Egypt’s flawed vote created momentum toward greater democracy.
Opposition movements, while unconvinced the government is sincere in its promises of reform, are vowing to fight harder in parliamentary elections set for November.
Wednesday’s election was the first in which Mubarak, a key U.S. ally in power for 24 years, has faced opponents. Previously, he was re-elected in referendums in which he was the sole candidate.
The integrity of the vote was seen as a key test of his government’s commitment to democracy. While few opponents believed the vote was clean, some suggested it was clean enough to raise their hopes.
The final results announced Friday by the elections commission held no surprises: Mubarak won a new six-year term with 88.571 percent of the vote.
His closest rival, Ayman Nour of the opposition Al-Ghad party, took 7.3 percent.
The vote was also marred by a lower-than-expected turnout: 23 percent, according to the commission. Before the vote, ruling party officials said they had been hoping more than 30 percent of the 32 million registered voters would participate.
During the balloting, ordinary voters, independent monitors and opposition groups reported numerous violations, including bribes, people voting without proper identification, voting lists that included names of the dead, and pressure on voters to support Mubarak.
But many opposition figures saw reason to hope. The vote took place under intense scrutiny by thousands of independent monitors, preventing the sort of police violence or overt vote rigging that plagued past parliamentary votes.
“There was huge pressure on the ruling party and the security forces, so the forgery was much less than before,” said Hussein Abdel Raziq, deputy leader of the leftist Tagammu party, which boycotted the vote.
“I can’t say that the presidential election was absolutely positive, but it was more positive than expected,” he told the Associated Press.