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Early Egypt Results Put Islamist in Lead (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By CHARLES LEVINSON and MATT BRADLEY CAIRO, EGYPT 05/25/12) Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304065704577424592516836580.html#
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CAIRO—The Muslim Brotherhood´s candidate appears poised to advance to the second round of Egypt´s historic presidential elections, according to exit polls conducted by his campaign and those of rivals— a surprise showing that is likely to set up a dramatic runoff featuring at least one Islamist candidate.
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Official results of the first round of Egypt´s presidential election, which closed Thursday night after two days of voting, won´t be released until next week. Competing campaigns are expected to release tallies compiled by their own election monitors Friday.
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In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood´s Mohammed Morsi was emerging as a front-runner: The Islamist candidate appeared to be a lock for a top-two finish, according to separate exit polling cited by officials from the campaigns of former Air Force Commander Ahmed Shafiq and former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, as well as from the Brotherhood political organization itself.
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Early unofficial returns were also leaking from individual polling stations. The Brotherhood released a selection of those returns, which it said represented about 2% of polling stations and showed Mr. Morsi with a healthy lead. None of the early results or exit polls could be independently confirmed.
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Barring the unlikely scenario in which one of the dozen candidates finishes with more than 50% of the vote, that would move Mr. Morsi to the runoff round of Egypt´s election, set for June 16 and 17.
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The campaigns of both Messrs. Shafiq and Moussa each predicted that the second contender in the runoff would be their own candidate. In either case, that would set the stage for a dramatic showdown pitting a secular-minded liberal versus an Islamist.
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But as some unofficial returns began to emerge early Friday, there were indications that two others—former Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Foutouh, and Hamdeen Sabahi, a leader of a leftist party who has fashioned himself as a champion of Egypt´s poor— couldn´t be counted out.
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The appearance of a wide-open field, and Mr. Morsi´s strong showing, qualify as the latest surprises in an election that has generated little but.
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This political season began with a revolution against President Hosni Mubarak that most people in this country considered all but impossible.
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Over more than a year, Egyptians who had known a lifetime of political apathy became political junkies. This week brought the first free and fair presidential election in Egypt´s history, and one unparalleled in the Arab world.
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It also presents a curiosity at a time when finely calibrated political polling has taken much of the suspense out of big political contests: With the polling business in Egypt still wildly unreliable, the country has conducted the rare race that has international ramifications but whose outcome has been anyone´s guess until the close of polling, and beyond.
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Mr. Morsi generally wasn´t considered a front-runner. He entered the race late, after the Brotherhood´s favored candidates was disqualified. Not only was he a relative unknown, but he also appeared saddled by many voters´ dissatisfaction with the Brothers´ performance in Parliament.
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A Morsi-Moussa or a Morsi-Shafiq showdown in the runoff would each pit a secular-liberal versus an Islamist. But each contest would almost certainly play out in dramatically different ways.
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The Brotherhood´s early return tallies, which had Mr. Shafiq in second place behind Mr. Morsi, with 6% of ballots tallied according to the Brothers, already kicked off an early morning furor among some Egyptians on Twitter. For many here, the prospects of a runoff between Mssrs. Shafiq and Morsi will be a replay of the same sort of regime versus Brotherhood politics that has dominated Egypt for decades.
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Mr. Moussa was a member of Mr. Mubarak´s regime but was never seen as a hard-core Mubarak loyalist. A diplomat rather than a member of the powerful military, he has been out of government for nearly 12 years and threw his support behind the uprising relatively early. Although many Egyptians were wary of backing him because of his regime ties, he has won over some skeptics.
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Mr. Moussa hasn´t proven nearly as divisive as Mr. Shafiq—an ex-Air Force commander who was a member of Mr. Mubarak´s inner circle until his final days. To many Egyptians, Mr. Shafiq represents a giant step backward to the days of the old regime. Faced with a choice between Mr. Shafiq and Mr. Morsi, a large swath of secular, anti-Mubarak- regime voters would likely sit out the next round.
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It is nearly impossible to predict how various runoff scenarios will shake out without firmer first-round numbers for each candidate. Predicting how well Mr. Morsi is likely to fare would depend on his showing in the first round and of two other Islamist candidates, whose voters could coalesce behind Mr. Morsi.
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The Brotherhood, whose powerful political machine has a national reach unmatched by other candidates, sounded triumphant in comments to reporters late Thursday. "We trust that Mohamed Morsi will be the next president because all of the results are in his favor," said senior Brotherhood member and lawmaker Essam El-Erian.
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Egypt´s ruling military has pledged the election will mark the formal transition from military dictatorship to civilian rule. But the recent months of lively politicking, first for parliament and then for president, has highlighted another transition for the Egyptian people, from apathetic to a population that has suddenly appeared to be consumed by politics.
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Lively political debates ring out from the back alleys and dingy sidewalk coffee shops of Cairo´s sprawling slums and from the card rooms of the leafy clubs favored by Egypt´s elite.
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Mohammed Abdel Moneim, 41 years old, emerged from voting for Mr. Moussa on Thursday rubbing bleary eyes. Wednesday night, he explained, his wife, Esmaa, had riled him from his slumber in something of a frenzy.
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A newly minted political junky, Esmaa woke him up to convey the latest news nugget, relaying a report about a dustup between supporters of Messrs. Aboul Fotouh and Moussa at a polling station. "I ran to his room and woke him up to tell him," she said.
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Before the ouster of Mr. Mubarak breathed sudden life into Egypt´s political life, Esmaa said she kept busy with television serials, celebrity gossip shows and reruns of "Friends." But more recently, she and her husband have reprogrammed the "favorites" folder of their satellite-television system with two dozen news and political channels.
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"I feel I became one of the educated class. I can sit with anyone and hold my own in a political debate and I know I´ll say things that are right," she said. "I feel so different." (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 05/25/12)
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