The Madeleine Brand Show for May 24, 2012

Egypt faces religious turmoil in wake of presidential elections

Amr Nabil/AP

An Egyptian woman walks under a campaign banner in Cairo on Tuesday. Egypt holds its first competitive presidential election on Wednesday and Thursday, with a dozen candidates in the race.

In Egypt, the second day of voting in the historic election is wrapping up. Millions of Egyptians have lined up to cast their votes in the first fully democratic presidential election in Egypt's history.

One group that is anxiously watching the returns is the minority of Coptic Christians — about 10 percent of Egypt's population — who are concerned about religious intolerance and discrimination. Egyptian Coptics have long complained of mistreatment under former president Hosni Mubarak, but now fear it may get worse if an Islamist becomes the political leader of the country.

There are about 6 million Copts eligible to vote in the election, but many are ambivalent about the candidates, and feel hopeless that they can make a difference or that their situation will improve.

The presidential election comes 15 months after a popular uprising brought down Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt with an iron fist for over 30 years. During the revolution last February, there seemed to be a sense of unity among the different groups that were protesting — Christians, Muslims, young secular Egyptians — but in the last year there's been a surge in attacks on Christians and Christian churches.

Thirteen different candidates are in the running, and the top two candidates will then move on to a run-off election in June. With no exit polls allowed, the results of the first round won't be known for several days.

Guest:

Suzie Abdou, a local Coptic Egyptian who recently traveled to Egypt to visit family.


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