Final voting day ends in Egypt's presidential election
Ahram Online, Wednesday 28 May 2014
The vote count is underway at several polling stations nationwide, as Egypt prepares to elect its first president after Mohamed Morsi's ouster


Polling stations have finally closed their doors on the last day of Egypt’s 2014 presidential election.

The cabinet will hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss the steps to follow the election. Several monitoring bodies will also be announcing their initial findings including the European Union's commission, which said it will be holding a press conference on Thursday.

Despite claims of low turnout, judicial sources told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website that voter turnout by Wednesday – the third day of voting – had reached around 21 million – or about 40 percent of the country's 54 million registered voters.

The estimate puts the turnout higher than this January's constitutional referendum, which saw around 20.6 million voters (38.6 percent), Judge Tarek Shebl, a member of the general secretariat of the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC), the judicial body supervising the poll, told Al-Ahram.

Shebl believes turnout for the presidential election will surpass 40 percent.

Earlier in the day, state news agency MENA reported a moderate turnout of voters in some governorates, including the Sinai Peninsula, and lower numbers in other provinces including the canal city of Suez as well as Qena and Aswan in Upper Egypt.

In an unforeseen move, the PEC announced late on the second day of voting, Tuesday, that voting would be extended by one more day, much to the surprise of the Egyptian public and the dismay of the two candidates, Hamdeen Sabahi and Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, whose campaigns both filed objections against the PEC's decision.

By the end of the first day of voting, Monday 26 May, and as a result of the unexpectedly low voter turnout observed across the country, Tuesday 27 May was declared a holiday to facilitate and encourage voting.

Unlike Tuesday, however, Wednesday was a normal working day.

The PEC announced it will enforce Article 47 of the election law which fines eligible voters LE500 ($70) if they fail to cast their ballots without presenting an excuse.

The first two days of voting were quieter and more peaceful than many elections have been in Egypt over the past few years.

One IED exploded on Monday near a polling station in Fayoum but led to no injuries, while another exploded on Tuesday in Heliopolis' Roxy Square, leaving one citizen with minor injuries.

The first day of voting saw some isolated clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, who argue the election is illegitimate. Police dispersed protests in Cairo, Alexandria and Minya, among other places. The second day, however, sailed by free of clashes.

Egypt's National Council for Human Rights received 216 complaints on the first day of voting, most having taken place in Port Said, Kafr El-Sheikh, Suez, Beni Suef and Sohag. The semi-governmental organisation said it reported 151 complaints to the PEC.

Sabahi's campaign also filed official complaints reporting a sizable number of violations.

Facebook and Twitter users on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning unleashed an avalanche of comments – ranging in tone between fury and humour – about the surprise measures being taken to boost voter turnout.

Calls also emerged from numerous Sabahi backers beseeching him to pull out of the elections.

Addressing the Egyptian public, the country's youth and his campaign team, Sabahi said in a statement, however, that his sense of "duty and responsibility" towards the country compel him to stay in the race.

"In order to seize our rights, there is no alternative but to participate, confront, expose and defeat such practices, not succumb to them," Sabahi declared in his statement, holding the PEC responsible for the "integrity and transparency" of the vote.

The final results are expected to be announced on 5 June.

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