Live Updates 2: Egypt presidential runoffs enter final day

Ahram Online, Sunday 17 Jun 2012

Voters continue to head to the polls for the finale of Egypt's polarising presidential elections, to choose a successor to ousted strongman Mubarak in a race that pits a former regime premier against an Islamist

A voter with her grandson casts her vote at a polling station in Cairo (Reuters)

22:00 Polling stations have officially closed and the ballot counting for Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential has begun.

The blistering hot day was not without event – monitoring groups reported several electoral violations across the country.

The most serious was the arrest of one observer and a number of April 6 Youth Movement members who were hanging posters of slain protesters.

Both presidential campaigns reportedly bussed voters to the polling stations.

Near Benha, the Brotherhood blocked the entrance to an entire village, only allowing voters to enter in the last few hours. observers told Ahram Online that the Brotherhood were very aggressive and forbid them from entering.

Meanwhile, down south in a village in Assiut, influential families in the area were intimidating voters into voting for Morsi.

In the Nile Delta governorate of Menoufia, reported that violations were excessive.  Founding members Ragia Omran and Ingy El-Hadid, were trailed by security forces for the whole day whilst being accused of being "foreign elements" and "receiving funding from abroad."

The last minute increase in voter turnout in upper class district of Zamelek, Sherine El-Touni from believes, was due to a text message sent out randomly calling on voters cast their ballots for Shafiq, as Morsi was in the lead.

Finally, it was the day of the living dead across Egypt, as a number of deceased voters appeared on the electoral lists.

That is it from this blog team – for live coverage as the vote counting comes visit here

Good night and good luck.

21:30 Morsi's campaign announce that they are holding a press conference about the elections at 11pm, at the campaign's headquarters.

21:00 With one hour to go, the presidential campaigns are clearly feeling the heat.

The Muslim Brotherhood begged Egyptians to vote and "not to forget the blood that has been shed and give a chance to the ousted regime to come back" via their official Twitter account @ikhwanweb.

Meanwhile the Shafiq campaign and their supporters have allegedly been texting people to head to the polling stations.

Hossam Baghat, executive director of civil society group Egyptian Iniative for Personal Rights tweeted:

"Even the co-ordinator of the Maspero Youth Union sent me this message: 'Go down to vote for Shafiq, Egypt is in danger' God have mercy on the souls of all the martyrs"

20:50 The defiant FJP majority leader of the People’s Assembly, Hussein Ibrahim, claims that the lower house of Egypt's parliament has, in fact, not been dissolved while casting his vote at Magdi Bin Haleem School in the coastal city of Alexandria.

“The calling for our usual Tuesday meeting is still on,” he told reporters.

Ibrahim then added that they will not "give in to a coup d’état," and that the SCAF has to respect the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration that “gave the authority of dissolving [parliament] not to the SCAF but to the people.”

On Thursday, the High Constitutional Court ruled that parliamentary electoral law was unconstitutional. The ruling military council consequently ordered the management of the parliament to close its doors.

In a tweet from the Brotherhood's official account @Ikhwanweb, the Brotherhood reiterated Ibrahim's point that according to the constitutional document, dissolving the parliament is up to the voting public -  they also called for a referendum to be held on the matter.

20:45 Just before a sudden spike in voter attendance at the ballot boxes, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) Hatem Bagato confirmed the runoffs witnessed a lower turnout than during the first round, in a press conference on Sunday night.

“We have spotted a number of violations and a high number of the candidates’ delegates has been arrested for campaigning.”

He further added that a date for the announcement of the final results cannot be confirmed until all appeals have been looked into.

20:25 There has been sudden surge of voters in the last hour, after sluggish turnout during the heat of the day, says Ahram Online reporter Fouad Mansour.

"In a Giza polling station the judges said a large amount of voters suddenly appeared and queues are longer than they have seen in the first round. In Zamalek, Downtown, Imbaba and Omraniya we are getting reports of the same abrupt increase in voters. This comes after a big propaganda push around 6pm on satellite TV channels like CBC and on the radio, encouraging voters to head to the polling stations. It's not possible to tell if the majority are voting for a particular candidate, or what this surge means."

20:10 The working class district of Omraniya in Giza is seeing a surge of support for Morsi, according to Ahram Online's reporter on the scene, Ekram Ibrahim.

She says that many of the voters arrived together in a group but were generally reluctant to voice their opinions.

"They seem shy but they are confident he will win. Shafiq supporters, on the other hand, seem to be expressing their support loudly and with pride," says Ekram.

One 34-year old supporter, Ahmed Maged, told her: "We want Morsi because SCAF seems to be backing Shafiq."

20:05 The Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide has asked "brothers and sisters to stand by the group and pay no attention to [election related] rumours."

In his message published on Ikhwan Online, the group's official website, Mohamed Badie said: "Egypt's is asking us to prevail and save the revolution, to draw the path of its Nahda [renaissance] project." He went on to ask "brothers and sisters to stay alert and determined."

20:00 There are signs of the boycott movement in Imbaba, according to Ahram Online's Nada El-Kouny, who says she came across a group of eight young men bearing posters with the slogan: "Do not let the martyrs blood go in vain."

The protesters were carrying images of Khaled Said - the young man killed by police in mid-2010 - and Mina Daniel, shot during a military raid on a demonstration by Coptic Christians in October last year.

Ayman Khalil, 22, who works for a trading company, said he was a member of Mobteloon ("Vote Spoilers") because he believes in neither candidate.

Khalil says and his friends spoiled their ballots during the first round and have done it again this weekend. Now they're trying to convince others to do the same.

Although they're met curiosity from people in the street, there's also been hostility.

"Many have attacked us when holding these posters, accusing us of campaigning for Morsi," Khalil said. At that point, as if on cue, a female passerby began to berate the group, accusing them of taking advantage of the martyrs to promote the Brotherhood's candidate.

A bystander, 35-year old Kamal Khalil -- no relation -- said he was still voting for Morsi, arguing that a boycott will only benefit Shafiq.

19:55 Six members of April 6 Youth Movement has been released after being detained earlier on the second day of the runoffs, the movement announced in a press release.

Members who were detained are Hossam El Leithy, Mohamed Hatem, Shaymaa Asafeer, Aly Maher and Hassan Aziz for holding up pictures of the January 25 uprising’s martyrs in front of polling stations in Beni Sueif, Beheira and Damietta governorates.

In Cairo, Ahmed Youssef, one of the detainees who were released, says he was beaten by a military police officer after his arrest.

Yesterday, seven members of the Youth Movement were arrested in the morning and another four in the afternoon.

19:45 Morsi's doing well in the Giza working-class Omraniya district, says Ahram Online journalist Ekram Ibrahim. 

At the Thanawya Al-Zeraeiya School polling station, 57-year-old construction worker Omar Abdullah – who voted for the FJP candidate in parliamentary polls late last year – cast his ballot for the Brotherhood's Morsi.

"I voted for Morsi in the first round, and I'll do so again this time in order to give the Muslim Brotherhood a chance. Even if he fails to do anything, the Brotherhood will keep him from drifting off the right path."

Turnout at the polling station appeared low on the second day of the vote, but voter numbers increased in the evening as the weather grew cooler.

"Most people appear to be voting for Morsi, citing his Nahda (renaissance) project for national revival," Ibrahim reported.

19:30 Campaigners for eliminated candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh were spotted urging voters to vote for the Brotherhood's Morsi, in the Nile Delta Qalioubiya governorate, say Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website.

"We’re asking those who voted for Abul-Fotouh in the first round to vote for Morsi this time around," explains Mostafa Marzouk who helped run the Islamist contender's campaig, "especially after former members of the NDP [ousted president Mubarak's now-defunct National Democratic Party] spread rumours that we had endorsed Shafiq's candidacy."

Following his elimination from the race, Abul-Fotouh – himself a former Muslim Brotherhood member – threw his weight behind Morsi's bid.

Khaled El-Qadi of the Sabbahi campaign, meanwhile, said that some of his fellow campaigners had initially decided to boycott the vote. "But after recent events, which revealed the ruling military council's true intentions, we decided to do whatever it took to prevent a win by Shafiq," he added.

Eliminated leftist candidate Sabbahi, for his part, has chosen to boycott the runoff vote.

19:15 A female judge take a breather at El-Orman school polling station in Agouza 

A female judge at an Agouza polling station (Ekram Ibrahim)

19:00 For pictures from across today's polling stations have a look here

18:50 The Brotherhood's promised last minute mobilisation has begun, says Ahram Online Nada El-Kouny in Imbaba. The once Sabbahi-stronghold was deserted for most of the day, but with just a few hours to go until the ballot boxes shut indefinitely, Morsi supporters are out in full force.

18:45 From invisible ink to rotating children, the electoral violations are becoming, as Alice in Wonderland once said, "curiouser and curiouser."

A child has been spotted in polling stations across the Beheira governorate, accompanying several voters to make sure they cast their ballot for a specific candidate and therefore receive the bribe in return.

Another cunning ruse for those intent on buying ballots, nicknamed "rotating paper", sees voters take pre-marked ballots into polling stations and leave with a blank one.  The voter, allegedly, then presents the unmarked paper as proof of payment.

18:20 Revolution supporters held pictures of the martyrs of the 18 days as they protested outside of a Mansoura, central Delta, polling station.

"We will not forget the responsibility of the so-called lieutenant general Ahmed Shafiq in the murder of our comrades in the revolution," a man in his late 20s told Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr TV:

"If Shafiq becomes president, we will haunt him every step of the way until we get rid of him, one way or another," another man added.

18:15 Twitter users are out in full force furiously squeezing their pearls of wisdom into 140 characters. Here is a choice selection:

Journalist Mai Shams El-Din tweeted: 'Outside the Delta where #Shafiq is abnormally winning, the vote is really divided. What happened in the Delta remains a big question mark!'

Prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah tweeted (in Arabic): 'My impression in Giza is that voter turnout is as high as it was for the first round, with more of a balance between young and older voters.'

Journalist Thanassis Cambanis tweeted: 'Zagazig area landowners say the Shafiq campaign is offering LE50 per vote.'

Journalist Tamer El-Ghobashy, from a polling station in downtown Cairo, tweeted a quote by a female Shafiq supporter: 'He [Shafiq] has no sons to inherit the presidency…he's seen Mubarak's mistakes and knows better than to repeat them.'

18:10 Many are spoiling their ballots at the women-only Orman School polling station in Cairo's middle-class Agouza district, Ahram Online correspondent Zeinab El-Guindy reports.

An old female janitor who works at the school approached our reporter, undecided about who to vote for.

"People tell me to vote for Shafiq," she said, "but, if I do, my social class – the underprivileged – will pay the price."

Nearby at the Qawmya School polling station, El-Guindy spoke to exhausted supervising judges who said the turnout had been almost the same as it was in the first round.

18:00 Egypt's Twitterati have discovered an unfortunate, and somewhat amusing, glitch on 'Google translate'. If you type "Egypt's president" in English it is translated as "Hosni Mubarak" in Arabic.  

Google, mortified at the ill-timed mistake, attempted to explain themselves:

 "Automatic translation is very difficult, as the meaning of words depends on the context in which they're used. While we are working on the problem, it may be some time before anyone can offer human quality translations."

This didn't stop Egyptian bloggers mocking the translation.

“Google translate says I respect Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak? When can we get rid of you, ***,” tweeted one user.

“Even Google translate is from the old regime? The next revolution will be global,” blogged another.

17:49 It is not only the dead who are being spoken for but the living too - according to the Freedom and Justice Party's Facebook page, Sanaa Abdel-Gawad Mohamed, wife of prominent FJP and Brotherhood figure, Mohamed El-Beltagy, said she went to the polling station to cast her ballot but found out that someone had already voted for her.

17:30 The presidential campaigners are at it again. According to eyewitnesses in the Fayoum governorate's village of Agmeen, south of Cairo, several knife-wielding Shafiq supporters have attacked their pro-Musri counterparts.

The attack, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website, was incited by Ali El-Shazly, a former MP and ex-member of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), along with members of El-Shazly's family.

17:25 Farouq Sultan, head of Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission, announces that security forces had arrested someone who was helping voters cast ballots outside a polling station in Cairo's working-class Mansheyet Nasser district.

Sultan added that the individual had been found in possession of a laptop computer and a CD containing materials inciting the public to demonstrate outside Cairo's presidential palace and calling for acts of violence in the event that Shafiq won the election.

17:20 Judge Maha Nayel, who is supervising the Osman Ibn Afan School polling station in Giza's working-class Omraniya district, says turnout is low on the vote's second day.

"It reminds me of the Shura Council elections [held last winter and marked by particularly low voter turnout]," she told Ahram Online correspondent Ekram Ibrahim.

According to Nayel, most of the voters who came to her polling station on Saturday and Sunday were elderly people, mostly women. Many voters asked her, she said, to help them choose a candidate, frequently asking her opinion as to who she thought was a better choice.

17:15 Local rights group Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights have released a report listing reported electoral violations on the second day of voting. The main violation reported is the 'use of religion' to sway voters, especially by the Morsi campaign.

Several judges and polling station employees were seen directing constituents to vote for Morsi, while heads of families and village leaders were seen urging voters to cast ballots for Shafiq.

Pre-marked ballots – in favor of both candidates – were also reportedly found, according to Maat.

17:00 BREAKING: The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission announced that polling stations have extended by another hour to 10pm. 

16:50 Moving back to the capital, turnout is waning at the Ibrahimiya School polling station in the lower-middle class district of Abdeen, according to Ahram Online reporter Nada El-Kouny.

"During the first day of voting, dozens of voters lined up outside the station, while today there were hardly any queues at all," El-Kouny reported.

Rania Adel, a 21-year-old university student, and fellow student Menna Saeed, 22, came to the station to vote together, despite initial inclinations to spoil their ballots following Thursday's High Constitutional Court ruling dissolving Egypt's Islamist-led parliament.

"The court ruling confirmed that the military ultimately maintains complete control over the political process," Adel told Ahram Online. "How can they dissolve parliament while keeping Shafiq in place? This decision was made against the will of the people."

Adel added: "I protested in Tahrir Square against Shafiq when he served as Mubarak's last prime minister [during last year's Tahrir Square uprising]. How can we protest against him now, when he could very well become the next president?"

16:47 Campaign rivalry has turned bloody again as Muslim Brotherhood's official website Ikhwan Online reports that Akram Harony, member of the Morsi campaign was shot by Shafiq team's Hosseiny Mohamed El-Tahawy, on Sunday afternoon.

The gunfight, which took place at polling station number 41 in Manshiya village of the Nile Delta Sharqiya governorate, descended into village-wide clashes when the families joined in.

This follows yesterday showdown in Daqahleyia, where Shafiq and Morsi supporters fought with firearms and bladed weapons. One man sustained a gunshot wound to his right hand while a woman suffered a deep cut to her head.

16:30 The afternoon team is now with you, following the last few hours of Egypt's polarising presidential runoffs.

Across Egypt the public continue to head to the polling stations as the grand finale of the Egyptian presidential elections limp to a close.

The biggest story of the day is the apparent absence of voters. The Lawyers' Syndicate reported that only 15 percent of eligible voters hit the ballot boxes on Saturday. On Sunday, the turnout has been even more lackluster.

Nothing appears to have dampen the Brotherhood's spirits though, as they reported that turnout was not as low as "many say" claiming that more people are voting than during the first round and that their candidate Mohamed Morsi was doing well.

The Shafiq campaign also started the day cheerfully by tweeting a YouTube video of May's bloody clashes between protesters and the army in Cairo's Abbasiya district, as a warning for Egyptians that the Brotherhood is "trying to turn the country into another Iran."

This was not the end of the accusations leveled at the Islamist group – Israel later blamed Morsi and the Brothers for rockets fired from Sinai into the self-proclaimed Jewish state. 

Back in the capital, the military and the police have been out in full force, with the obligatory helicopters circling polling stations. Soldiers continued to film, and in some instances follow, journalists.

For a blow-by-blow account of this morning's events as they happened visit here

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