CAIRO Nov. 28, 2011— -- Egyptians took to the polls en masse today, eager to participate in the first parliamentary elections since the ousting of longtime President Hosni Mubarak last February. Although many feared the elections would be marred by violence this has not been the case, with many reports indicating a sense of optimism and goodwill in the air.
"People are really taking part this time, people want to be heard," said 25-year-old Lamia Habib, a dentist and first time voter, who had come to the polls with her cousin and two friends.
Her cousin, Zena Sallam, agreed.
"If we ask for a democratic process we have to be a part of it. Otherwise our demands would be null and void. If we don't come out here and make our voices heard then we really don't have the right to ask for anything," Sallam said.
The election went ahead despite worries that anger over renewed clashes between pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square and the country's military rulers could mar the turnout.
The turnout, however, was enthusiastic providing stark contrast to elections under Mubarak, which were characterized by widespread voter apathy amid allegations of ballot stuffing, bribery, and voter intimidation by the government.
This year voters instead faced long lines resulting from thousands of Egyptians who showed up early at polling stations across the country, lines which prompted authorities to extend the elections up to two hours in some areas.
"If you have waited for 30 years, can't you wait now for another hour?" one weary army officer yelled at hundreds of restless women at a polling center in Cairo.
These elections, which are the first of three designed to transfer power from the temporary military government to a more permanent, civilian run one, could provide a strong indicator of what's in store for Egypt in the near future.
The Muslim Brotherhood, despite being banned under the Mubarak regime, has emerged with a strongly organized political machine and is expected to make big gains in the parliamentary elections, prompting fears of rising Islamism from leftist Egyptian parties and Western Allies alike.
Regardless of what happens in Egypt's future Sallam is ready to participate. She came well equipped and prepared for every eventuality
"The line is long… I brought my makeshift chair just in case. I knew this was going to happen, so we planned it"The Associated Press contributed to this report