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Egypt: A Test Case for Democracy
Aired November 20, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Carol Lin. And here's what is happening right now.
In Iraq the U.S. military is conducting tests to see if Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among those killed in a raid by U.S. troops. But a White House aide calls a report of Zarqawi's death highly unlikely. Zarqawi is considered the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and he's blamed for masterminding numerous bombings in Iraq and Jordan.
SWAT team members take a man into custody in Tacoma, Washington, after he allegedly opened fire inside a mall. Six people were shot, one was critically injured. Three hostages were released unharmed. The gunman has been identified as a white man in his 20s.
Now tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern, it's "LARRY KING LIVE" and Senator John McCain joins Larry to talk about the situation in Iraq and his political future.
And time now for CNN PRESENTS, President Bush is pushing for democracy in the Middle East. He wants Egypt to take the lead but could his efforts put enemies of the U.S. in power. "Egypt: A Test Case for Democracy" starts right now.
And of course I'll see you at 10 p.m. Eastern with the latest up- to-the-minute news on "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT."
I'm Carol Lin.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the great and proud nation of Egypt which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.
ANNOUNCER: Egypt in the midst of change.
MONA EL-TAHAWY, WRITER: I never thought that I would see anything like it in my lifetime.
ANNOUNCER: But is the change real or merely a mirage?
GEORGE ISHAQ, KEFAYA MOVEMENT: You know, the president -- in our culture, have gun (ph), our president. You can't say anything about him.
RABAB EL-MAHDI, TEACHER, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN CAIRO: The soldiers were beating us. The hands went everywhere. They tore of my bra. They tore off my panties.
ANNOUNCER: And if democracy arrives, what surprises would it bring?
DR. MOHAMED MORSY EL-AIAT, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD PARLIAMENT LEADER: We are Muslim Brotherhood, we want an Islamic state in our country, not in your country.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, CNN's Jonathan Mann goes in search of a fledgling democracy in the Middle East, ahead on this special CNN PRESENTS, "Egypt: A Test Case for Democracy."
JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It's a hot night and the music makes it hotter. The Mulid Festival is an annual Egyptian tradition that goes back thousands of years. Egyptians come from around the country year after year. But this year an unusual sight. That's an election poster next to the swings.
And by the light of day, the posters are everywhere in Cairo, all of them quite literally signs of the times. There are demonstrators in the streets. An Egyptian leader actually going through an election campaign, and people daring to publicly support someone else they like better. A country with very old habits is trying something new.
(on camera): The first real glimpse of Democracy has arrived in Egypt, something that has never been seen here, even as far back as the time of the pharaohs. It's a push for freedom that's new not only to Egypt, but to the whole Middle East, a region where democracy has often only been a dream.
(voice-over): The fall of Saddam Hussein was seen by the Bush White House and its supporters as the dawn of a new era in the Middle East, a chance for democracy to take root in Iraq and spread across the region. And Egypt would lead the way.
BUSH: The great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward Democracy in the Middle East.
MANN: For the first time, an Egyptian ruler is taking tentative steps towards democracy. President Hosni Mubarak got his job 24 years ago in what Egyptians might call the old-fashioned way: his predecessor died in office. And Mubarak has ruled with an authoritarian hand ever since. This year's election is unprecedented.
(on camera): We've come to Cairo to see how far President Mubarak will go, and to meet with some of the people who are pushing with all their might to make their dream of democracy come true.
(voice-over): The reformers, who say they have had enough.
ISHAQ: What is this democracy? What is this democracy? It's false. It's not real. I believe in that, so we boycott the election.
MANN: The Islamists who say government should be based on God's laws. MORSY: We want an Islamic state.
MANN: The women who have been drawn into politics by a crude and violent effort to keep them out.
EL-MAHDI Twelve of us and hundreds of them. They started beating us big time, and they started groping the women.
MANN: The populist who may have gotten too popular.
AYMAN NOUR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I believe they made me pay a price for challenging a tyrant. All they did to me, from detention, roughness, oppression, to political harassment, cost me my freedom.
MANN: Will the reformers succeed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a democracy! There is not a bit of change that is going to happen in this country with this regime!
MANN: Will the government let them succeed? Will democracy, Egyptian-style, be good for the region or America?
DR. JOHN L. ESPOSITO, CENTER FOR MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Egypt has always been regarded as the leader in the Arab world, educationally, politically, socio-economically. When it comes to the issue of democracy and democratization, the irony is that Egypt is not a leader.
MANN: Some things in Egypt are easy to spot and understand. A bruised forehead tells you a man prays with enough fervor to leave a mark of his devotion.
But what is on President Hosni Mubarak's mind? Does he really want to end the system that put him and kept him in power. The prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, says yes.
AHMED NAZIF, PRIME MINISTER OF EGYPT: And as we led the region into peace, I think Egypt will be capable of leading the region into more democracy.
MANN: Mubarak came to power when President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, leaving then Vice President Mubarak to fill his post. Mubarak stepped into the top job, declared a state of emergency, and has been running the country ever since, backed by dictatorial powers, the support of the security forces, and billions in aid from the United States.
In the years since Mubarak inherited the presidency, he has only staged yes or no votes on whether he should keep it. He has never faced an actual opponent. Few people voted, and Mubarak won every time.
Now Washington, his closest ally, is pushing him to loosen his grip. And there is growing dissatisfaction from his own people. One in five Egyptians is unemployed. Two out of five live on $2 a day or less. And when the World Bank made a list of the best countries to do business, Egypt ranked very close to the bottom.
DR. AIDA SEIF EL-DAWLA, PSYCHIATRIST, AL-NADIM CENTER FOR TORTURE VICTIMS: I think Egypt is at a crossroads. It's boiling. I mean, the people are angry, people are jobless, there is no way out.
MANN: The prognosis for democracy here is uncertain at best. The U.N.'s annual survey of Arab development, written by Arabs, says it plainly: "The modern Arab state resembles a black hole, a setting in which nothing moves and from which nothing escapes.
(on camera): For many Arabs, Islam is the answer. For a handful of extremists, violence is the answer. Is democracy the answer? And is Egypt ready to embrace democracy? And if it does, what would that mean for other countries in the region for who democracy has been for so long a dream denied?
(voice-over): When we return, women take to the streets and are brutally attacked.
MANN (voice-over): It was supposed to be a historic day, Egyptians voting to change their constitution to give themselves the right for the first time to choose their president. The day was historic, but not the way everyone expected.
EL-MAHDI: They were being beaten up very brutally. And they were just, you know, carrying people away.
MANN: Rabab El-Mahdi, a political science teacher at the American University in Cairo, joined a demonstration on May 25th, referendum day. Lila Swif (ph), a mother and professor of mathematics at Cairo University, was also there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They started to hit me. When my son saw this, he intervened, so they started to hit him.
MANN: They were among the thousands of Egyptians testing new freedoms. Little did they know what they were about to endure, and the enormous impact it would have.
That very week, U.S. first lady Laura Bush was in Cairo, praising President Mubarak for what she called his wise bold step in promoting democracy. It was still early in the day when Lila headed down with here son, Ala (ph). As they arrived, they saw the peaceful demonstration had become something else.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were a few demonstrators, very few demonstrators. And there were these thugs running after them and beating them up. Lots and lots of police standing there doing nothing. And there were also these thugs. MANN: The men she calls thugs were never identified. But many of them carried pro-Mubarak signs, and the women we spoke to said the men clearly had the cooperation of the police.
MANN: Lila and her son suddenly found themselves in the middle of a melee. What happened to them was just one of hundreds of scenes captured that day in amateur video images.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were 10 people on top of my son, I was jumping, trying to get them off him. They were really going to kill us. We were down on the ground with all these people on top of us.
MANN: After a few minutes, they pulled away from the crowd. Her son's foot was badly hurt. Lila was just roughed up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wasn't bleeding, my glasses were broken. I just had some bruises. I was lucky.
MANN: Lucky, she says, because that day will be remembered for far worse violence.
EL-MAHDI: We were like 100 or 150 at the syndicate (ph), and those thugs were, you know, somewhere between 300 and 500.
MANN (on camera): As the demonstration grew more violent, Rabab and some of the other protestors ended up here at the top of these stairs. And then they were cornered against the wall, where, she says, they were being beaten with sticks. That's when she and some of the others slid down this slope to try to get away.
When they got down, Rabab says that police and other men chased them here to this entrance to a small underground parking garage.
EL-MAHDI: They had blocked the garage. So we were basically in a place where your, there are two concrete walls and a big metal door behind you. And they blocked our access to the street and then files and files of uniformed police came and they opened only one small pass for the thugs to come on to us. And they did.
MANN: Completely surrounded, Rabab became the target of an angry mob.
EL-MAHDI: The soldiers were beating us, beating us on the head with their sticks. And then tons of men, you know, with hands, saying the dirtiest of words. They're like, you want to demonstrate against Mubarak? This is what Mubarak is doing to you, he is screwing you, see, whore? That's Mubarak that you are chanting against. He is now screwing you.
They slipped their hands everywhere. They tore off my bra. They tore off my panties. They were inside -- they were in my vagina. I couldn't feel anything. At one point I was just numb and I was begging the police officer. I'm like, I'm going to die.
MANN: The attacks that day made news around the world. ESPOSITO: The reality of it is that what people wanted to do is you simply don't break heads when it comes to males. You attempt to create a real shame situation. And the way in which you do it is you not only drive women out by sort of groping at them, trying to pull their blouses off, et cetera, but you are also sending a message to the men, see what we're doing to your women? And that's precisely what went on.
MANN (on camera): Does that strengthen the government or undermine it by infuriating the people?
ESPOSITO: Oh, I think it undermines the government ultimately. For many Egyptians, while some will be intimidated by what went on, for many, this becomes the ultimate insult.
EL-MAHDI: I've never felt as violated as that.
MANN (voice-over): For Rabab, the attack made a mockery of the claims for democracy.
EL-MAHDI: And that's when Laura Bush was traveling the whole country and saying, oh yes, we just discovered that maybe picking democracy in paces is wiser and more suitable to the Egyptian case. Is this part of the democracy she is talking about? Is this part of the wise democracy?
MANN: Across Egypt, many women were stunned.
GHADA SHAHBANDAR, FOUNDER, WWW.SHAYFEEN.COM: And I came home, turned on the television and Internet, I was surrounded by my children, and I was very upset by the images I saw.
MANN: Ghada Shahbandar is a college English professor, a mother of four and a housewife who had previously had nothing to do with protests or politics.
SHAHBANDAR: What really shocked me was the police brutality with the demonstrators, and the violation of Egyptian women. Women were being punched, harassed. One woman was being dragged down the street, her clothes were being torn off. And this is so unacceptable to Egyptians.
MANN: Ghada immediately began organizing a campaign with friends demanding a public apology from the government. The campaign distributed tens of thousands of white ribbons around the city. But no apology ever came. That made Ghada and her friends more angry.
SHAHBANDAR: So we founded shayfeen.com, which in Arabic means "we are watching you."
MANN: Their first test, monitoring the presidential contest for election fraud. Egyptian officials have tried to downplay events that day and have blamed the demonstrators for the attacks.
NAZIF: Most of the violence that took place on May 25th, first of all, there were very few incidents, second, they were related to acts of -- demonstrations that are turning violent.
MANN: But on July 31st, only a few weeks later, pro-democracy advocates were again brutally beaten in the streets. May 25th has now become known as "Black Wednesday" for thousands of Egyptians. And on many Wednesdays after that, democracy advocates held demonstrations.
But the country's most popular opposition group is still not allowed to show its face or its force in the streets. We will meet the group the government really fears when we come back.
MANN (voice-over): September 11th, 2001, 2,973 people killed. Madrid, March 2004, 191 people killed. London, July 2005, 52 people killed. Amman, Jordan, November 2005, 57 people killed.
Islamic terrorism is a scourge of our times. Governments around the world are at war against it. Promoting democracy in places like Egypt is part of President Bush's plan to defeat terrorism. Yet Egypt is also inextricably linked to the rise of Islamic terrorism.
In July, an attack here killed 88 people. It was in Egypt that al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, began his jihad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are Muslims who believe in their religion (INAUDIBLE) ideology and practice!
MANN: Egypt was the birthplace of Mohammed Atta, who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center.
(on camera): And it is here in Egypt where new democracy may be emerging that Islamic terrorism was in a sense born decades ago. As this country takes halting steps towards democracy, it's confronting a frightening question, could more political freedom unleash more extremism, which deep roots in this country?
(voice-over): Roots you can find in many bookstores.
(on camera): Do you have any books by Sayyid Qutb?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By?
MANN: Sayyid Qutb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sayyid Qutb, yes.
MANN (voice-over): Sayyid Qutb was one of the early thinkers of a movement called the Muslim Brotherhood, the most important independent movement in the Arab world.
The brotherhood is illegal here, but Qutb's work continues to inspire millions of people in Egypt and around the Muslim world. They see Islam as a remedy for their country's poverty, political problems, weakness against the West. They believe that Muslims need to change themselves and their way of life if they want to change the world. The change would come from morality and piety from devotion to Islam.
Mohamed Mahdi Akef is the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"The Muslim Brotherhood carries Islam to the people," he tells us. "We teach people that it is an all-encompassing religion which sheds light and facilitates all aspects of life."
But Qutb called for more than just a religious revival in Muslim countries. "This will be followed sooner or later," he wrote, "by their conquest of world domination, an Islamic resurrection."
Extremists throughout the Muslim world have taken that vision as a license to kill. A splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood killed an Egyptian prime minister in the late 1940s, and a president, Anwar Sadat, in 1981. Egyptian jails have held tens of thousands of its presumed members. But the Muslim Brotherhood today has renounced violence.
ESPOSITO: What a lot of people miss though is that the leadership of the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood increasingly distanced itself from Qutb.
MANN: The brotherhood says the regime's crackdown has caught up innocent people, many of who are still in jail.
We found Nabila Abdul Naif Hamed (ph) among several dozen devout women pleading silently for news about their husbands or sons. Nabila said her husband was taken from their home and sent to prison 12 years ago, leaving her and her daughter, then just over a month old.
She said he was never charged with a crime. "He was not involved in politics," she told us. "He had done nothing wrong. It's just that he had gotten more religious."
MANN: Egypt has opened up enough that they can demonstrate publicly. But they still have no answers about the faces in the photos. Officially illegal, the brotherhood's existence is an open secret. It's no secret that the movement is widely admired by the country's people.
The brotherhood operates hospitals and other social services around the country. Though it's banned, the brotherhood has become a mainstream political movement with the largest opposition bloc in parliament, whose members officially sit as independents, not Muslim brothers.
Dr. Mohamed Morsy is the parliamentary leader. He and many Egyptians believe that if given a free and fair election, the brotherhood could win. No other party is nearly as well-organized. What would a brotherhood victory bring? Islamic law.
MORSY: If we are, as a majority here, Muslims, want to make an Islamic state, what's wrong in that?
MANN: Morsy says the West need not fear an Islamic state.
MORSY: We are Muslim Brotherhood, we want an Islamic state in our country, not in your country.
MANN: Mohamed Akef is more specific. "The will of Allah is very simple," he tells us, "when Allah prohibits marriage of gays, adultery, manslaughter, plunder, and alcohol, then no earthly law has the right to allow it. On the other hand, democracy gives people infinite freedom. People in the West have the right to drink alcohol, commit adultery and more. No, we are not like this."
Candidates make pilgrimages to the brotherhood's headquarters to show solidarity and try to win its supporters' votes. But the Mubarak regime doesn't allow the brotherhood to run its own candidates.
NAZIF: The Egyptian constitution is very clear as to how Islam fits in our lives. We do not allow parties based on religion, whether it's Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion.
MANN: Government supporters say the reason is obvious.
DR. HOSSAM BADRAWI, PHYSICIAN, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: The fear we have is that they may use democracy to reach power, and then may ruin the bridge and nobody else can do that.
MANN: That fear is echoed by ordinary Egyptians we met.
MONA ERIAN, PHARMACIST: No, it's not good. Muslim Brotherhood are fanatics. They have -- they are the extreme of the Muslims and they enforce their beliefs on other people.
MANN: But American scholar John Esposito says those fears are exaggerated.
(on camera): Doesn't an Islamic state inevitably mean hands will be cut off for thievery.
MANN: Women will be enslaved to their husbands.
MANN: The entire culture and the legal culture will move back into the Middle Ages.
ESPOSITO: No, I don't think so. There is absolutely nothing on the ground in Egypt, in terms of a group like the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power, that could lead one to believe that that would happen.
MANN (voice-over): But the brothers do have some extreme ideas. Morsy and Akef don't believe al Qaeda hijackers carried out the 9/11 attacks on the United States. And they don't believe the Twin Towers were knocked down by planes.
"This is a lie created by the media," Akef told us, "satellite news channels have broadcast, Internet Web sites have published, but we don't know who was really behind it. I believe that al Qaeda does not exist at an organizational level."
MORSY: I cannot understand what happened in September 11th, this is not convincing, and an airplane or a craft just going through it like a knife in butter. I don't see that. Explain it to me. They didn't do it, make a fair trial, they didn't do it. What's going on? There is something fishy.
MANN: For now, the brotherhood and the Mubarak regime co-exist in an uneasy standoff. The brotherhood dared to organize a rally back in March, the government responded swiftly, 3,000 of its members were arrested.
Mohamed Akef spent 20 years of his life behind bars. He says the government's tight control of the brotherhood doesn't prevent extremism, it fuels it.
"We are denied freedom to preach or teach people the correct meaning of Islam," he told us. "So this leaves room for people who are dedicated to terrorism and extremism."
When we return, we take a close look at the growing movement for democracy that's behind many of the recent demonstrations in Cairo. It's called Kefaya.
LIN: Good evening, I'm Carol Lin. And he is what is happening right now.
Chaos at a mall in Tacoma, Washington. A suspect is in custody after he allegedly opened fire on shoppers and took three hostages. Six people were wounded, at least one was critical. The hostages were released unharmed. The suspect has been identified as a white man in his 20s. Police say he used an assault rifle during the attack.
A White House official discounts a report that says Abu Musab al- Zarqawi was killed in a raid by U.S. troops. The U.S. military is conducting tests to see if he is among those who were killed. Zarqawi is considered the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and he is blamed for masterminding several bombings in that country and the recent hotel bombings in Jordan.
On tonight's "LARRY KING LIVE," Senator John McCain joins in a 30 -- in about 30 minutes, actually, at 9:00 Eastern, they're going to talk about Iraq and whether McCain is planning to run for president again.
But right now, back to CNN PRESENTS, a behind-the-scenes look at the fight over democracy in Egypt. And please join me 10 p.m. Eastern for a "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT."
I'm Carol Lin.
MANN (voice-over): How do you think this is going to end? A crowd of angry demonstrators, a thick cordon of police in a country with a history of sometimes brutal oppression.
This is Egypt today, which seemed barely imaginable only a year ago. This encounter speaks volumes that start with one word.
MANN: The demonstrators are chanting "Kefaya," it means "enough." It's also the name of their movement. Kefaya began two years ago as a discussion group opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
But its anger turned to another target closer to home, the Mubarak regime. No one dared publicly protest against the president until Kefaya began just last December.
ISHAQ: How dare you two talk to the president like that. It is not common, because, you know, the president in our culture have gun (ph), our president, you can't touch them, you can't touch him. You can't say anything about him. So you break the taboo.
MANN: George Ishaq, a retired high school history teacher emerged as a movement leader.
ISHAQ: And we want change in this regime because this regime is a rotten regime, is a despotic regime.
MANN: The group took their demonstrations outdoors to the streets.
ISHAQ: (INAUDIBLE) demonstration, because demonstration is forbidden, it is illegal, because you are covered by emergency law.
MANN (on camera): Hosni Mubarak has used the special emergency to rule Egypt ever since he took office. It gives his government sweeping powers to ban demonstrations or arrest, even imprison without trial. In this country, the government also has the right to approve and even suspend all political parties.
EL-DAWLA: Egypt is a police state. The police is the uncontested power in the country. Everybody knows that.
MANN (voice-over): Dr. Aida Seif El-Dawla is a psychiatrist who treats victims of official abuse, and another member of the growing opposition movement.
EL-DAWLA: They can round up anybody who they suspect from the streets, from the cafes, from their homes, and for 48 hours before those people are presented to the prosecution charged with charges, the police have a free hand to do whatever they want with them.
At minimum, this means verbal abuse, slapping, kicking, flogging maybe. Beyond that, it can go to the most extreme forms of torture.
MANN: When President Mubarak called the election, Kefaya and the opposition pressed for fair rules and an end to the emergency laws. They are still pressing. When Kefaya held its first rallies, the police arrested Ishaq and others. Eventually the group called for a boycott of the election, dismissing it as a ploy to keep Mubarak in power.
Ayman Nour, an opposition member of parliament, was arrested and charged with forgery in January after founding his own party 89 days before. He spent six weeks behind bars, only, he says, because he dared speak out against Mubarak.
Nour wasn't well-known until his arrest, but the furor raised his profile internationally. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice abruptly cancelled a visit to Egypt when she learned of his arrest. And she made a point of meeting him when she did arrive.
Ironically, Nour was then tarred as an American stooge, and ostracized from the growing opposition movement. The U.S. is not popular among Egypt's pro-democracy activists. The Bush administration may see the election here as a victory in its campaign for democracy in the Middle East, but many Egyptians give Washington little credit, instead the U.S. is blamed for supporting decades of dictatorship and for its occupation of Iraq.
These demonstrators have had enough of George Bush as well as Hosni Mubarak. The reformers of Egypt have put their faith in the people of Egypt in the hope that their pressure will force change. Already more than two dozen organizations have joined forces with Kefaya.
The numbers are still small, in a country of nearly 80 million, they get a few hundred to a few thousand for their rallies. Often there are more police than protestors, but the protests are multiplying and the protestors are getting bolder, openly challenging the regime in ways that would have been unthinkable just months ago.
The voters we spoke to said they noticed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's very different from before. We're very happy with it. There's freedom of opinion, there's freedom of choice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that this signifies democracy, it's just one step towards democracy.
MANN: Egyptians have been taking those steps. Some demonstrations have ended badly, with beatings and arrests. But as we watched, the police seemed very restrained in the face of obvious provocation. The protest went on for hours and then turned into a parade, enthusiastic and unimpeded.
When we return, election day, the first presidential vote with opposition candidates in the running, but some say it's the same old story.
EL-DAWLA: It tells me what I know, that this is a farce.
MANN (voice-over): Election day. Hosni Mubarak is everywhere. On the streets. In polling stations. His ruling party even hires a band in many places. It's the first time ever Egyptians have been able to choose their leader. The day is full of first steps and some stumbles.
Math professor Lila Swif plans to vote for opposition candidate Ayman Nour, even though she thinks he's too pro-American.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You choose the best of a bad case. And I think that any vote which is cast against Mubarak is a good vote.
MANN: But even for this educated, determined woman, it isn't easy. She spends more than an hour just trying to find out where she is supposed to go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't find where I'm supposed to vote. Partly it's my fault because I've lost my cards. I don't see anything (INAUDIBLE) the natural chaos of Egypt.
Actually when I phoned my husband and he looked up my voter number. So when I gave them my voter number they found me fairly easily and I voted.
The (INAUDIBLE) is fine except for all these mug shots of Mubarak all over the place. We have mug shots of Mubarak inside -- this is completely illegal. This is completely illegal.
MANN: In other polling stations, Mubarak's presence is pervasive. Polling places are orderly but mostly empty. Only 23 percent of voters actually take part.
ESPOSITO: Twenty-three percent sends a clear signal that for many people in Egypt, why bother to vote, we know what's going to happen. And for others it was a way of indicating that you weren't going to legitimate this process.
MANN (on camera): So it wasn't ignorance, it wasn't just an unfamiliarity with the system, it wasn't laziness or lack of interest system, to your mind it was contempt.
ESPOSITO: I think it was both contempt and apathy.
MANN: The candidates themselves cast their votes. For many voters like this professor, Mubarak is still the only choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have given my voice to the candidate Hosni Mubarak.
MANN: But for others, it's a new day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I choose Numan, Numan Gumaa. I choose him.
MANN: In the heart of Cairo, one of the biggest Kefaya demonstrations ever locks up traffic. All day there are claims of fraud of various kinds.
EL-MAHDI: I saw public buses, those big buses, being filled by state employees and parking in front of polling stations, waiting to go vote. This is the state shipping people to poll stations to go and vote for Mubarak.
MANN: There are reports of violence at the anti-Mubarak demonstration on a side street. This man says he was beaten by police with sticks.
EL-DAWLA: It tells me what I know, that this is a farce, that there is no democracy and they cannot tolerate even a one-day show of pseudo-democracy. It tells me that we are very correct in wanting to remove this regime.
MANN: While there are angry demonstrators in the streets, at Mubarak campaign headquarters, a well-oiled machine is busy at work. These men are on the phones with polling stations across Egypt, pushing to get out the vote. While we're there, Mubarak's son, Gemal, perhaps the one-day presidential heir, enters the hall, escorting his mother, Suzanne Mubarak.
Out in the polling stations, Ghada Shahbandar's "we are watching you" volunteers are monitoring the vote.
SHAHBANDAR: The main complaints are about lack of privacy during the voting. Some polling stations don't have the obligatory curtain and people seem somewhat intimidated. The bribery incidents are happening all over Egypt, those responsible for them are party enthusiasts. But we're all learning. This is our first elections -- free elections experience.
MANN: There may be complaints and accusations of fraud, but for thousands of Egyptians, just the day itself is remarkable.
EL-TAHAWY: I think it's amazing. I've never seen anything like and I never thought that I would see anything like it in my lifetime. This is the first time that I've ever seen demonstrations march through the streets of Cairo. It's the first time I've ever seen people openly criticize President Hosni Mubarak. So it's quite amazing.
MANN: No one thought it would be perfect. Many people think it was still not enough. But the first presidential voting day in Egypt looked a lot like voting day elsewhere. It doesn't make Egypt a democracy, but it suggests it could become one and may be on its way.
When we return, the election results and what they mean for Egypt and the region.
MANN (voice-over): If you travel in the desert, be wary of a mirage, something that looks real but vanishes before you reach it. Is democracy in Egypt a mirage and much further off than it seems? Are Egyptians just seeing things?
When the votes are finally counted from Egypt's first real presidential race, President Mubarak wins by a landslide. In a tally that surprises no one, he takes 88.6 percent of the vote. What perhaps is surprising, the government concedes publicly that there was only a 23 percent turnout.
So how real is the election? And does it really herald the beginning of a true democracy?
ESPOSITO: What the Egyptian government wound up doing is cracking the door open. The reality of it is that that door can be slammed shut any time.
MANN: While the door is open, the Muslim Brotherhood is literally walking through it, showing its face publicly in ways long prohibited.
(on camera): Today the Muslim Brotherhood is still officially banned, but it's tolerated to an extent by the government. Even so, a demonstration like this is really pushing the limits of what is possible. In the past, police would quickly be on the scene to break the crowd up. Tonight there are police here, but they are just quietly watching all of this unfold.
(voice-over): For every apparent step forward toward a more open system, there seems to be a step back. Ayman Nour, the leading opposition candidate, came in a distant second in the presidential election with 7 percent of the vote. He's still fighting legal charges, hounded and harassed, he says, in the courts.
And just weeks after the presidential election, in a parliamentary election, Nour lost his seat to a top Mubarak aide. Independent election monitors said there was widespread vote-rigging and fraud. The politics also got personal and dirty.
(on camera): I am told that you have received an obscene recording with a blackmail threat. What can you tell us about that?
(voice-over): You could see the reaction in his eyes, before he left the room to compose himself. Nour said he received a CD purported to be the recording of an intimate encounter between him and his wife. It came along with an anonymous letter threatening to make the CD public.
MANN (on camera): I'm sorry, are you all right?
NOUR (through translator): When I heard it's not my voice or anyone that I know, I didn't care until I read the letter came with it, saying that I've crossed the boundary between masters and slaves.
ESPOSITO: So what message does that send? The message that when you cross the administration that's not forgotten, and that everything will be done to get you.
MANN (voice-over): So how does it add up? Where is Egypt headed?
NAZIF: For the first time in Egyptian history we're sending a strong message, and I hope that it is well-accepted by the rest of the world. We're serious about democratic reform in Egypt.
SHAHBANDAR: What happened over the past nine months was a first step towards democracy, the first step towards free choice, in brief (ph). And we are all learning.
EL-MAHDI: I believe there will be change, definitely, but not the kind of change that this regime is counting on. I remember a phrase that I like very well, very much, you can push toothpaste out of a tube, but you can't push it back.
MANN: Egyptians like these take the idea of a free election seriously. Many risked beatings and worse to try to make it happen.
(on camera): But it's going to take more than just elections to plant democracy in the desert. People have to believe that their vote matters, that there's a real possibility of change.
The lower voter turnout suggests that Egyptians don't yet have that faith, but by staying away in such great numbers, they essentially give democracy a vote of no confidence, a sign that the landscape here is going to have to change more if reform is really going to put down roots.
EL-MAHDI: We are going to push, and this is a long fight that I think people are willing to go through.
ISHAQ: We want to be in charge in this country. We want to be equal. We want to obtain our right and duty. We are suffering from this regime. Our issue is freedom. We want freedom.
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