Egyptian Leaders Weigh In On Election

Robert Siegel talks to three Egyptians about the second day of voting in the country's first free election since ousting former President Hosni Mubarak last year. Fifty million people are registered to vote, and preliminary results are expected over the weekend. He talks to Mohamed ElBaradei, leader of the National Association for Change, Dalia Ziada, a founding member of the Justice Party, and Abdul Mawgoud Rageh Dardery, an Egyptian parliamentarian.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

How important is this election to Egyptians? Well, we called some people whom we've heard from on this program since the protests in Cairo first began. In those days, Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was considered a possible presidential candidate. Well, today, he was in Vienna. He is mindful of what has not been accomplished in the democratization of Egypt, but he is still very excited about this week's voting.

MOHAMMED ELBARADEI: The very fact that we have an election is, in itself, a major achievement. Of course there's a lot that still has to be done in term of establishing the framework for democracy and making sure that we are on the right track. But in itself I think it's a good step forward.

SIEGEL: When you spoke to me right after President Mubarak stepped down, your concern was whether presidential elections would be scheduled too soon, before there could be real organization and real discussion. What do you think? Has this been too quick, too slow? What's your sense?

ELBARADEI: I think it has been too quick, frankly. I have been advocating from day one, after Mr. Mubarak left, that we need to give time for new parties, post-revolution parties, to be established, that we need to work on a new constitution, and that - where we have to have a dialogue on the basic values under which we are all going to live. Unfortunately, none of that has happened. We rushed into parliamentary election, did not give any time for the new parties to be established.

That gave huge advantage to the Muslim Brotherhood, who have had 80 years on the ground.

SIEGEL: Should Egyptians be concerned that, let's say, if there is a very strong showing by the Muslim Brotherhood candidate on top of the parliamentary majority that the Islamists enjoy, that that showing might lead the military to feel justified in retaining or strengthening its position over the country, in a way, to provide some balance? Is that a worry at all of yours?

ELBARADEI: It could be a worry. However, I think that at least the Brotherhood are sophisticated enough to understand that they have to reach out to the rest of the country, the liberals, the youth who feels they have been robbed out of their revolution. But it is a worry and we need to get together, all the Egyptians, in a national dialogue to agree on basically how we can work together for a future where everybody feels that he or she belongs.

SIEGEL: Are you confident of that, by the way, or is it possible that, since your country has not been a place of lots of open elections and lots of public opinion polling, is it possible that indeed the majority really is Islamist at heart and that this does reflect their world view?

ELBARADEI: I think that the majority are believers, but what is exactly the definition of Islamist? If you are talking about basic values of Islam, they are no different from the values of Christianity or Judaism. It's tolerance. It's equality. It's social justice. It's fairness. It's work ethic. So if you are really talking about then specific Sharia laws, a specific penal code, well, you have a lot of different views and lots of disagreements on that.

So these are issues we have to deal with, Robert, and again, they are all issues that have not been discussed in depth before and we are still subject to a lot of slogans from extremists that makes people feel uncomfortable. So we have a huge task ahead of us and a long way to go.

SIEGEL: Mohammed ElBaradei, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He spoke to us from Vienna. Next, we return to a woman who spoke with us last December.

DALIA ZIADA: My name is Dalia Ziada. I am the executive director of Ibn Khaldun Center for Democratic Studies.

SIEGEL: You tried running for parliament and were beaten out, I gather, by a Muslim Brotherhood candidate.

ZIADA: And right now I am monitoring the presidential election through a network of 10,000 observers all over Egypt.

SIEGEL: Well, what are your feelings on this day, second day of voting in Egypt's unprecedented, contested presidential election?

ZIADA: Actually, it's historical today. I think it seemed like (unintelligible) festival or something. Everyone is very excited about the idea of having a new president, but very confused as well. And this confusion itself is a (unintelligible) for the dream we've been dreaming for so long, to have a president who's coming from among the people, whom we can judge, whom we can hold accountable. He's not coming from a supreme authority. He's just a human like us.

SIEGEL: And do you think there's enough enthusiasm and enough serious conviction about this election that whoever wins the election will be supported by people who might have opposed his politics?

ZIADA: Yeah, yeah. Listen, I am sure people will respect the upcoming president, whoever he is. Today I was discussing this with some friends who support actually some candidates whom I don't agree on, or I think they are bad people. And they asked me this question. Would you respect our candidate if he wins? And I said, absolutely, yes, I will, but I will remain as an opposition member.

And this is best thing about democracy. Time by time, democracy fixes itself and this is above all, you know, this is what we've been dreaming to have for so long.

SIEGEL: That's Dalia Ziada in Cairo.

In the Egyptian city of Luxor, Abdul Mawgoud Rageh Dardery won a seat in parliament for the Freedom and Justice Party. That's the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

And, Mr. Dardery, what are your thoughts today and this week as Egyptians voted for president?

ABDUL MAWGOUD RAGEH DARDERY: Egypt and all of Egyptians are really happy of what is happening in Egypt yesterday and today. Egyptians are going in great numbers to vote. And they're really happy to participate in the election of the first president after the great Egyptian Revolution.

SIEGEL: Democracy, of course, is more than just elections. Are you confident that in Egypt, a government will operate on principles of mutual tolerance, respecting the rights of minorities or is there a danger here that perhaps people will indulge their big majorities after these elections?

DARDERY: I agree with you that democracy is not just a procedure. It is an attitude towards life. It is the willingness to respect others as you demand others to respect your perspectives. I think Egypt, as a culture, has democratic ingredients to it. As a political system it did not have in the past. Now, we're bringing together the democratic culture of the Egyptian people with the state's structure. I expect the coming government to respect different perspectives.

The fact that we have the majority does not mean that the minority does not have rights. And in Egypt we'd like to bring a new form of democracy where all can work together and in spite of our differences.

SIEGEL: And tell us a little bit about the scene today in Luxor, in your city, at the polls today and yesterday. What was it like?

DARDERY: It was really a great way of seeing people. Usually because of the hot weather in the beginning of summer, the midday is the day where you don't see many people going to the voting station. But early in the morning until mid-morning, and then late afternoon, people at night, people are standing in line. They're so happy, shaking hands, saying, hey, we've done it and we're moving forward for a new president. It is great moment in Luxor as in the rest of Egypt, Robert.

SIEGEL: Well, Professor Dargery, thank you very much for talking with us.

DARDERY: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Three very enthusiastic Egyptians talking about this week's presidential election. That was Abdul Mawgoud Rageh Dardery in the city of Luxor. He is a member of Parliament and a member of the party that represents the Muslim brotherhood.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And one quick reminder about this week's historic election in Egypt. If, and this if is highly likely, if none of the candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters will face off again. The runoff, should it be necessary, would also be over two days and is tentatively scheduled for June 16th and June 17th.

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