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Egypt holds first round of presidential elections

A voter looks over her ballot before casting her vote in Egypt's presidential election on May 23, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt.

Kai Ryssdal: The polls are closed in Egypt now; they'll open again tomorrow morning to wrap up the first round of presidential elections there. The first ever round of free presidential elections there.

Whoever wins -- and there are 13 names on the ballot -- will have plenty to do. Diplomatically, politically and economically.

Amira Ahmed is a journalist in Cairo. We had her on last year, during the revolution. So we called her up again. Amira, good to talk to you again.

Amira Ahmed: You too, thanks.

Ryssdal: So what's it like today? What's it like out on the streets?

Ahmed: It's undeniably a historic day for Egypt. There's a sense of excitement, but it's a bit more subdued than we'd seen in the parliamentary elections, and the turnout seems like it's going to be a little bit less than the parliamentary elections as well.

Ryssdal: What's it like day to day? I mean, as you go about trying to buy a loaf of bread or shop for your groceries? You know, is it as bad as it was 15 months ago?

Ahmed: The day-to-day is a little bit different; it's still in struggle, there is that will to change things but it isn't the ecstasy that was kind of felt during last February and March of 2011, immediately after Mubarak's stepdown.

Ryssdal: You know, we see on television here in the States, we see from time to time protests and demonstrations in Cairo. Are people protesting economically now, do you think?

Ahmed: The people have been protesting for economic reasons for years now, and one of the main drivers of the uprising was the economic conditions and was the high rate of unemployment and the social injustice. On the economic side, there hasn't yet been the policy reform that we can see that could actually bring about any kind of real change when it comes to creating jobs, when it comes to redistribution of wealth. We've seen that play out in shortages when it comes heat and gas, which people depend on here for heating water and cooking. And we've also seen gasoline shortages, with drivers queueing up for miles to fill up their tanks basically. We've seen that a lot more frequently than we used to in the past.

Ryssdal: When was the last time you went out to a cafe or to a restaurant for dinner?

Ahmed: Just a few hours ago, actually, after I did a little tour of the polling stations.

Ryssdal: How are the crowds? Are people going out and spending money and doing those things that make an economy go?

Ahmed: Yes. I mean, life is pretty normal for some people, if they choose not to be active participants in ongoing protests.

Ryssdal: Right. Did you vote today?

Ahmed: I'm going to vote tomorrow. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people have made the same decision, learning from the parliamentary elections. So I think it's going to be very crowded tomorrow. We'll see how that goes.

Ryssdal: Amira Ahmed in Cairo. Thanks.

Ahmed: Thank you.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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