Wael Ghonim: Next Egyptian president will "be held accountable"

(CBS News) For the first time in the Arab world, a presidential election is being held and no one knows ahead of time who's going to win.

Millions went to the polls Wednesday in Egypt to experience their first real election, which will have big implications for the Middle East and U.S. policy.

Determined and patient, people waited for hours for their turn to cast a ballot for one of 11 candidates. After so many decades of dictatorship and rigged elections, Egyptians are just thrilled with one simple but novel idea: This time, they have a real choice.

"Freedom. This day is freedom," said one voter.

In February, 2011, after weeks of demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square that forced President Hosni Mubarak from office, Wael Ghonim - a young Google executive - became one of the revolution's most powerful leaders.

Back then, he urged these crowds to opt out of Egypt's corrupt old political system. Today, Ghonim said he's happily opted back in.

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"I have a personal belief that at the end of the day it doesn't really matter who's coming to office," Ghonim said. "If they come through fair elections, I am not worried because they're gonna be held accountable."

Ghonim became a celebrity when, during the revolution, he broke down weeping for the protestors killed by Mubarak's men.

This spring, he used that celebrity to support the moderate Islamist presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who believes in basing Egyptian law on, Sharia, the teachings of the Quran.

"If there are laws that have anything to do with Sharia it will only be the ones that ensure the country fights poverty, fights corruption, fights ignorance," Ghonim said, adding it would likely be some sort of modernized Sharia Law.

No one knows what the new democratic Egypt will look like exactly. It's a work in progress being shaped, said Ghonim, by all the ordinary people who have shown such extraordinary courage.

"I will be very proud of all the brave Egyptians who took to the street who broke the fear, who resisted -- who insisted -- on making sure its over, the dictatorship is over," Ghonim said.

The Egyptian Army has been running things in Egypt since the revolution. The way forward with them is unclear. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has promised to give up power on July 1, sort of; they said the civilian government won't have oversight over the military budget. There is still a lot to sort out.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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