GOP lawmaker monitoring elections in Egypt praises first round of voting

The sole U.S. lawmaker monitoring the presidential elections in Egypt said the first two days of voting “have gone well” as millions of citizens cast their ballots in the first competitive election in the nation's history.

“It's been an amazingly historic development,” Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) told The Hill in a phone call patched through by the U.S. embassy in Cairo. “Regardless of what happens, it's a great outcome [to see the] enthusiasm for democracy … after what this country has gone through for 40 years.”

Dreier, a board member of the International Republican Institute, said it was “really inspiring” to see voters peacefully standing in line during elections that seemed unfathomable just one year ago.

He and former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) are the only American election observers who aren't affiliated with the Carter Center.

“People are turned on here, and that matters,” Harman said.

Egypt has been criticized for allowing fewer observers than during the parliamentary elections in January and for giving them their accreditation badges later, making it harder for them to be ready when the polls opened.

But Harman described a well-organized election that hasn't seen much disruption. Other than a protester who threw his shoes at former Hosni Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, there have been relatively short lines, voting procedures posted clearly outside of every polling place, judges in every polling location, observers from different parties and a large — but non-threatening — military presence to keep the peace outside polling places.

“By and large the atmosphere is friendly,” Harman said.

She described talking to two women in line who disagreed on where their rights came from: God or legislators.

“I observed, just standing there, 'Isn't it wonderful that you two can debate this — and probably vote for different candidates — in Egypt?' And they agreed with that,” Harman said. “The women's rights issue is huge, and they are debating it.”

Thirteen candidates were running in the first round on Wednesday and Thursday. The run-off vote is scheduled for June 16.