Middle East
6:45 am
Sun June 17, 2012

Close Race In Egyptian Candidates' Birthplace

Originally published on Sun June 17, 2012 12:23 pm

Transcript

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And we have one more election to talk about this morning, this one in Egypt. It's the second and last day of the presidential run-off there. Egyptians are choosing between the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Morsi, and retired Air Force General Ahmed Shafiq, who was the last prime minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

One region where the vote is expected to be particularly tight is in Egypt's Nile Delta, north of Cairo. That's where Kimberly Adams traveled and she filed this report.

KIMBERLY ADAMS, BYLINE: The Egyptian governorate of El Sharkia is blanketed with the lush farmland for which the Nile Delta is famous. It's also the birthplace of both candidates in the presidential run-off.

Khalil Ahmed works in fields of corn, rice, and clover just outside the district's capital city, and laments the difficulties of low-income farmers like him. Farming families make up about half of Egypt's population.

KHALIL AHMED: (Through Translator) This land, we're renting it at black market prices. We had lands and the accursed Mubarak, God send him to Hell, he allowed the landlords to take our land away from us.

ADAMS: But despite his anger with the former regime, Ahmed says he's voting for Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, because he doesn't trust the Brotherhood candidate.

Nearby in a clover field his wife, Sohair Abdel Azizz, says she doesn't trust the Brotherhood either.

SOHAIR ABDEL AZIZZ: (Through Translator) Because if the Brotherhood gets control, it'll be like we were sold. But if Shafiq wins and we don't like him, we'll be able to get him out the next time we vote.

ADAMS: Shadi Hamid is the director of research at the Brookings Doha Center. He says despite the religiosity of Egypt's countryside, many rural voters are shunning the Brotherhood's Morsi for the security and economic improvements promised by Shafiq.

SHADI HAMID: So even if voters has Islamist inclinations, at the end of the day, they're watching the economy.

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ADAMS: On the streets of the regional capital, Zagazig, Shafiq campaign posters give way to Morsi banners. It's Morsi's hometown, and it was an embarrassment to the campaign when he lost here to Shafiq in the first round of voting - although Morsi won the most votes nationwide.

Dr. Nagi Sakr, a surgeon who works on Morsi's local election committee, acknowledges his candidate is unlikely to get much of the rural vote. But he is counting on a high turnout among middle-class urban supporters to push Morsi over the top.

DR. NAGI SAKR: Ninety percent of professionals here will give his voice to Dr. Morsi. But the others will support Shafiq.

ADAMS: But on the farm outside Zagazig, the revolution feels far away to Sohair Abdel Azizz. All she's worried about are the low prices for her crops and the lack of security.

AZIZZ: (Through Translator) It's been a year now in God's torment. We don't sleep at night. We fear for our children and we fear for their future.

ADAMS: She says she just wants things to be peaceful, and she's hoping her vote this weekend will help accomplish that.

For NPR News, I'm Kimberly Adams.

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MARTIN: And you're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.