“We hate them both”

With an apparent lack of enthusiasm, Egyptians went to the polls this weekend to choose between the devil (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the deep blue sea (the remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s regime).

“We are forced to make this choice. We hate them both,” said Sayed Zeinhom at Cairo’s Boulak el-Dakrour, a densely populated maze of narrow dirt alleys and shoddily built houses. Mahmoud el-Fiqi, waiting with him at a polling center, offered, “Egypt is confused.”

The race between Ahmed Shafiq, a career air force officer like Mubarak, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, a U.S.-trained engineer, has deeply divided the country after the stunning uprising that ousted Mubarak after 29 years in office, and left many disillusioned about the elections’ legitimacy.

Many voters felt that the choice no longer even mattered after a court ruling this week effectively ensured that the military generals who have ruled since Mubarak’s ouster will continue to be in power.
Few voters showed the sense of celebration visible in previous, post-Mubarak votes: anxiety prevailed. Some said they felt bitter that their “revolution” had stalled, feared that whoever wins protests will erupt, or were deeply suspicion that the political system was being manipulated.

Others said they were voting against a candidate as much as for a favorite. Anti-Shafiq voters said they wanted to stop a figure they fear will perpetuate Mubarak’s regime; anti-Morsi voters feared he would hand the country over to Brotherhood domination to turn it into an Islamic state.

With the fear of new authoritarianism in the future, some said they were choosing whoever they believed would be easiest to eventually force out with new protests.

“We are afraid Egypt will turn into a religious state. Even though Shafiq is not the best one, we want him to maintain the civil state,” said Marsa Maher, a Christian housewife.

Mustafa Abdel-Alim, a bank employee with a mark on his forehead sometimes seen on Muslims from repeated prayer, said he wanted to keep out the Brotherhood. “If we elect Morsi … we won’t get rid of them for 100 years,” he said.

In a statement reminiscent of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assertion that there are no homosexuals in Iran, Morsi recently denied the existence of child abuse, separated couples, cohabitation and sex with beatings in Egypt.

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