Egyptians Report Few Hang-ups During Voting

Voting in Egypt's first free presidential election wrapped up Thursday and ballot counting began. If no one wins a majority, the contest goes to a run-off next month.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. In Egypt, the polls have closed in the country's first free presidential election. The two days of voting went relatively smoothly, with no indication of political interference or outright fraud. Monitors and officials lauded the election, saying it was better run than any in modern Egyptian history. The official results won't be known for days, but many believe a runoff is inevitable between the top candidates.

And as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, the results will likely be contested if the race is close.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Fewer people went to polling stations like this one in the impoverished Cairo neighborhood of Bulaq on the second day of voting. That was good news for businessman Hany Shaaban Ali.

HANY SHAABAN ALI: (Speaking foreign language)

NELSON: The28-year-old says he was amazed how quickly he sailed through the line. His mother, Raghda Mokhtar, agreed.

RAGHDA MOKHTAR: (Speaking foreign language)

NELSON: It was very easy, she said, and praised poll workers for being pleasant and cooperative. She says the election is the most honest she's ever seen. Many voters were happy in the northern port city of Alexandria as well. Twenty-one-year-old Marian Adel Saleh says she was relieved that campaign workers who harangued voters during the parliamentary elections stayed away.

MARIAN ADEL SALEH: Last time, there were a few problems with people telling you what to do, handing out flyers, pressuring. But this time there weren't any problems. No one was speaking. No one was even asking you who you're voting for. And, like, I heard older people in the queue saying things like, if anyone even considers overstepping the line, we're going to report it.

NELSON: Not every encounter between poll workers and voters was harmonious. In Alexandria, this elderly Egyptian pleaded with poll worker Shehata Mahmoud that he was a registered voter and should be allowed to cast the ballot. But Shehata refused. He said his records listed the elderly man as being on active duty in the Egyptian military, which makes him ineligible to vote. Another concern was a shortage of independent monitors, which some analysts here predict will lead to legal challenges should the vote be close.

Only a couple of hundred foreign observers, including former President Jimmy Carter, and several thousand Egyptians, were allowed to visit the more than 13,000 polling stations across this vast country. And the authorizations only came through at the last minute. One monitor here in Cairo is former Congresswoman Jane Harman, who heads the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

JANE HARMAN: I am aware that the Carter Center is unhappy, and I actually agree with them, that credentials were given out so late. They say that there were things they wanted to do in the last four or five days to assure that everything that was put in place was done properly, which will, the authorities said, prevent them from giving this election their gold star.

NELSON: But Harman adds what she and other monitors saw was much improved over the recent parliamentary elections. The final results will be revealed on Tuesday, although the Muslim Brotherhood campaign plans to unveil its own tally tonight that will likely cast its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, in the lead. If none of the 13 candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held between the two top vote getters in mid-June. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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