Day 1 of parliament voting smooth; PM declares Monday a half-day for state workers

Ahram Online , Sunday 18 Oct 2015

Ahram Online followed all the developments throughout Sunday as Egyptian voters headed to the polls on the first day of the first stage of the 2015 parliamentary polls

Egyptian parliamentary
An Egyptian woman casts her vote during the first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections, at a polling station in Alexandria, Egypt, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP)

21:20 The High Elections Committee (HEC) announced in a press conference that it would allow all voters who entered polling stations before 9pm to cast ballots past the official closing time.

Ahram Online concludes its live coverage of the first day of voting in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. Stay tuned for our Monday coverage of the vote. We wish our readers a good night. 

21:00 The National Council for Human Rights announced in a statement that it received 45 complaints throughout the day regarding the elections, mainly related to the delayed opening of polling stations this morning.

There were 12 complaints of delays in Sohag, Beni Suef, Alexandria, Fayoum, and Giza.

The council also stated that there were nine complaints in Aswan, Beni Suef, Sohag, and Fayoum of supporters breaching the rules of electoral silence.

There were also nine other complaints of some candidates’ supporters trying to influence the voters in Sohag, Alexandria, Beni Suef, and Fayoum.

There were also three complaints in Fayoum and Sohag regarding the lack of facilities at the polling stations for voters with special needs.  

20:30 Judge Abdullah Fathi, head of the Judges’ Club (an unofficial but powerful body that represents the majority of Egypt's judges), told Al-Hayat TV that reports coming from the club, which usually monitors polling processes, labeled today's turnout as “clearly and unjustifiably weak.”

20:00 Egypt's cabinet gave state employees a half-day off on Monday, the second day of voting in the first stage of the country's parliamentary elections.

The government had already designated both Sunday and Monday a holiday for all schools in the 14 governorates which have been slotted for the first stage of voting in the 2015 parliamentary elections.

19:30 Inside a polling station at Gamal Abdel-Nasser secondary school in Giza’s Dokki district, Zeinab El-Gundy reported that most voters were among the elderly. The judge says the turnout rate has remained constant throughout the day, with the judges reporting that 151 votes have been cast at this polling station so far.

At another polling station in Gamal Abdel-Nasser preparatory school, the presence of media personnel was notable since a number of celebrities are registered as voters. The judge told the same reporter that turnout is higher than it was earlier in the day.

19:00 In the first reported act of violence during the elections, unknown assailants opened fire from a four wheeler at security forces deployed at a polling station in Al-Ayat, Giza. The forces responded by firing back at the vehicle, which then flipped over. The gunmen escaped and no injuries were reported, according to Al-Ahram’s Arabic site.

18:30 Defence minister Sedki Sobhi and interior minister Magdy Abdel-Gaffar visited a number of polling stations in Giza to check on the security situation. The ministers praised the measures taken by security forces deployed to secure the polling process, according to Al-Ahram’s Arabic website. 

18:20 The liberal Free Egyptians Party (FEP) announced in a statement on Monday afternoon that it has filed a legal complaint against TV host and parliamentary candidate Abdel-Rahim Ali, accusing him of publishing “lies” about the party on his Al-Bawaba news website. On Saturday Al-Bawaba ran a story titled “Free Egyptians Party visits Alexandria Bishop to win Christian votes” claiming the FEP is making efforts to mobilise the Christian vote.

The FEP accused Ali, who has a long-standing feud with FEP founder Naguib Sawiris, who is Coptic, of insulting the party and its founder and fostering sectarianism.

Ali, a controversial TV host, is running as an independent candidate in the Agouza and Dokki constituency in Giza governorate against the FEP’s candidate Ahmed Mortada Mansour. 

17:50 A number of well-known actors and comedians cast ballots at polling stations in Giza including Mohamed Heneidy, Ahmed Bedeir and Lebleba. 

16:20 Judge Omar Marwan, the official spokesperson of the High Elections Committee (HEC), criticised media reports on the turnout percentage as of Sunday late afternoon, Ahram Arabic reported.

“Those percentages are unreal and some media outlets reported our samples as the [actual] turnout,” said Marwan in a press conference at the HEC headquarters.

Earlier in the afternoon, the HEC announced that the number of voters casting their ballots electronically has reached 624,000, or 2.27% of voters casting their ballots electronically.

The official spokesperson for the HEC said that the committee received 256 complaints from 9 am till 2:30 pm mostly about the delay in opening the polling stations. 

15:50 Police have arrested a 25-year-old man accused of bribing voters to cast their ballots for a certain independent candidate at Khalid Bin Al-Waleed School in Giza’s Faissal district.

According to Al-Ahram’s Arabic site, the suspect was offering those waiting in line LE100 in exchange for their votes.

Police forces securing polling stations in Faissal have also arrested a number of suspects accused of distributing forged voting cards among queues of voters.

14:45 The HEC announced that the number of voters casting their ballots electronically has reached 624,000, or 2.27% of registered voters in polling stations equipped with electronic card readers.

According to an earlier statement by the HEC, 1,500 polling stations are equipped with electronic card readers, up from 200 in the 2012 presidential elections. 

The total number of polling stations for this year's elections is 11,000.

The electronic cards readers allow the HEC to issue reports about the number of people voting. However, the minister of local and administrative development Ahmed Zaki Badr said in a press conference that there are no indicators of the percentage of voters who have casted their ballots.

Since the voting started at 9am, many of the first stage’s polling stations have been witnessing a low turnout.

Critics argue that people might be expressing indifference or are just disinterested in the elections.

Read more here.

15:20 In Giza’s Hadayek Al-Ahram district, Mona Yehya, 36, and Marwa Yehya, 35, wait to cast their votes. Ahram Online's Passant Darwish noted that the two sisters, both employees at a pharmaceutical company, are the youngest voters present at this district’s polling stations.

Mona says she's voting so that “the country will move forward and get better.” Marwa says that one of the issues the next parliament should discuss is creating jobs for youth. "Many young people have [higher education] certificates, but they don't have jobs."

Both sisters in the middle class area will vote for ‘For the Love of Egypt’ list. As for the independent candidate, they say they will not vote for any previous NDP parliamentarian who is currently running. 

15:15 Contrary to the low to moderate turnout in several districts in Giza, a high turnout was reported in Giza’s El-Saf town.

Thirty-year-old Mahmoud Heikal points out that the high level of voter participation, from men and women alike, is due to their support for the ‘town’s sons’ running in the elections.

“The people of El-Saf have decided to vote in order to choose candidates who are able to solve the town’s chronic problems in the fields of health, education, irrigation, and facilities,” 50-year-old education ministry employee Nadia Mostafa says.

15:00 Minister of Justice Ahmed El-Zend has told Minister of the Interior Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar that judges overseeing the elections process have been receiving death threats via SMS, MENA reported. 

14:45 Mostafa Bakry, parliamentary candidate and supervisor of ‘For the Love of Egypt’ list’s electoral operations room in Giza, told Al-Ahram’s Arabic site that they have "received numerous complaints of judges refusing the entry of our representatives to polling stations.”

Bakry added that some judges refused entry to representatives of ‘For the Love of Egypt’ who are registered within the constituency and asked for registration within the polling station itself.

Bakry also said that the operations room has received complaints over the delay in the opening of a number of stations in Assiut, Samalout, Bulaq El-Dakrour, and Imbaba due to judges’ tardiness.

14:30 A break for judges in all 14 governorates began at 14:30 and will last for an hour. During the break, the polls will be closed.

14:30 Egypt’s State Litigation Authority is currently in the process of paying LE1 million (about $126,000) as compensation to the family of an authority member who was killed in a car accident yesterday. 

Giza Councillor Saber El-Said died in a car crash while he was on his way to Assiut governorate to receive electoral ballot papers.

This comes after the litigation authority concluded an insurance draft on members of the legislative body. The draft lists LE1 million as compensation in cases of death and LE750,000 (about $94,500) in cases of disability.

The authority also called for the HEC to distribute members of judicial bodies in polling stations close to their area of residences.  

14:15 Housewife Dina Serry, voting at the Orman school polling station in Giza’s middle-class district of Agouza, told Ahram Online’s Zeinab El-Guindy she came to vote because she “wants the country to move forward”. She is voting for independent candidates Amr el-Shobaki and Abdel Rahim Ali and for the For the Love of Egypt list.

Also in Agouza, at the Orman preparatory school mixed polling station, two delegates representing candidate Sayed Gohar said the turnout is still extremely low.

14:00 The country’s left-wing political forces seem sceptical and polarised about this final stage in the post-Morsi political roadmap.

A lack of unity has undermined their efforts to contest the elections, with many from their ranks cynical about the impending parliament's ability to effect change, and consequently choosing not to run.

There are however some leftwing groups represented on today’s ballot papers. Click here to read more.

13:30 A small bomb was reportedly defused near a primary school in Fayoum in Upper Egypt, according to state news agency MENA. No casualties were reported.

13:10 Another report of low turnout, this time from the working-class district of Boulak in Giza, Greater Cairo. Al-Ahram Arabic website reports that voters there predict that turnout will start to increase after the end of the working day.

Many of those casting their votes were confused as to who to vote for in the independent seats. Ahmed Mostafa, a government employee, told Ahram that he was confronted by a long list of names, most unknown to him.

13:00 The spokesman for the High Elections Committee, which is in charge of the polling process, said at a press conference that the number of women voters so far has been “four times greater” than that of men.

Omar Marawan added that the 60 plus age group was the most well-represented and young people between 18-21 the least.

12:30 Former member of Alexandria’s municipality council Ahmed Fouad tells Ahram Online’s Omar Halawa that the main competition in the city so far is between the For the Love of Egypt list and the Nour Party list.

However, Fouad says that in his constituency of Sharqi Sidi Gaber, people are more interested in independent candidates than the party lists. They are more interested in candidates "who offer services” than in “high politics,” he says.

Many of the independent candidates in the constituency are former members of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, but they were not among its most high profile figures, Fouad said.

12:20 The spokesman for the High Elections Committee, Omar Marawan told CBC news channel that there have been no complications with the voting process so far, and the body has not received any complaints about electoral irregularities.

Egyptians cast their votes inside a polling station during the first round of parliamentary elections, in Giza, Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 (AP)

12:15 Although the streets are very crowded in the middle-class district of Dokki in Giza, there are no visible queues outside the polling stations. There are voters inside the polling stations but almost no one is standing outside, say Ahram Online’s Lamia Hassan.

Representatives from the African Union observers mission are in action at El-Shaheed Ahmed Mahmoud Mostafa School on Nour Street, while a handful of elderly people sit outside waiting for their turn to vote . On Tahrir Street, a group of young boys distribute flyers with the photo of Ahmed Mortada Mansour, the son of controversial figure Mortada Mansour, on cars stuck in traffic.

12:10 The High Elections Committee has announced polling stations will close for an hour-long break from 2:30 to 3:30pm, during which time voting will be on hold.

12:05 Turnout is low in the cities of Beni Suef governorate in Upper Egypt, reports Mohamed Abdel-Salam of Ahram’s Arabic website, although slightly higher in the villages.

Abdel-Salam reported unusually high security at the polling stations

12:00 Retiree Mohamed Abdel-Kader, 74, tells Ahram Online’s Passant Darwish that he came to vote "for the future of his grandchildren.” He wants the upcoming parliamentarians to work for the benefit of the country and not their own.

Voter turnout at the polling station in 6 October is not very high, with more women than men. Abdel-Kader says he is disappointed that more young people haven’t shown up.

At the same polling station, housewife Nerveen Abdel-Moneim, 36, says that while she chose a specific list to vote for, she picked an independent candidate at random. She was hoping to find a representative from the party list she supports to advise her on which independent candidate to choose, but none were available.  

11:50 Authorities in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena have detained three people reportedly linked to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, charging them with inciting violence and disturbing the electoral process, Al-Ahram Arabic news website has reported.

Major-General Salah El-Din, the head of the governorate’s security directorate, was informed that the three were planning to disrupt the polling, according to Al-Ahram.  

11:45 Wafaa Hassan Refaat, a 69 year-old retiree, tells Ahram Online’s Passant Darwish in Sheikh Zayed that she came to vote because it's a "national duty."

She’s upset at the lack of young people at the polling stations, describing them as “lazy.”

“Young people have to wake up before they regret it,” she said.

The country is on the right path but more attention should be spent on education, unemployment and health, Refaat said.

11:40 Turnout so far in Beheira in the Nile Delta, is low, according to Ahram Arabic reporter Yasser Zidan.

Zidan said that most of the voters are elderly, but he expects more people to head to the polls in the early evening, after work.

There are 3,528,484 registered voters in Beheira to vote in 1730 polling stations. A total of 385 polling stations witnessed a delay of half an hour due to presiding judges arriving late, according to the High Elections Committee.

11:30 There is an “average” turnout in the Red Sea governorate, according to an Ahram Arabic reporter based there.

Ali El-Tairy says that all polling stations in the governorate opened on time, with all judges and security forces present in the polling stations.

He also added that a military major-general, Ahmed Wasfy, and the governor of Red Sea, Ahmed Abdallah, will be heading to polling stations in the Halayeb and Shalateen triangle, an area on the Sudanese border that is disputed by Sudan, to monitor the voting process.

11:00 Most polling stations across Egypt’s governorates opened late, the executive director of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, Tarek Zaghloul, told Al-Ahram’s Arabic website.

The NGO also reported an incident in which journalists were barred from covering events in the vicinity of a polling station because of a lack of media permits, although permits are only required for coverage inside polling stations, Zahgloul said.

As well as media, a total of 81 local NGOs and 6 international organisations are cleared to monitor the polling stations. A total of 17,465 local NGO staff have received observation permits, along with 717 international NGO staff, the prime minister’s adviser, Refaat Komsan, has said.

10:35 The ambassador of the Netherlands has been tweeting from Beni Suef.

10:30 In Al-Raml Awal constituency in Alexandria, Ahram Online’s Omar Halawa sees few voters so far. The voters that have turned out so far are mostly elderly men.

10:00 Housemaid Hamdeya Mahmoud, 35, was encouraged by her employer to vote “in order to improve the country,” she tells Ahram Online’s Passant Darwish in Sheikh Zayed. She hopes to see her three boys and her daughter get a better education, and says that she wants candidates to care about the poor. 

09:50 The US Consul General in Alexandria, Stephen G. Fakan, who is also an observer in the elections, told CBC news channel in front of Hoda Al-Shaarawy School in Roushdy, Alexandria, that the voting process so far has been “smooth.”

Fakan said that he is set to move around various polling stations in Alexandria in order to observe the voting process. 

09:45 Some voters have been telling Ahram Online's Passant Darwish that they feel confused by the process. Voters get two ballot papers, one for their party-list vote and one for the individual constituencies, and each paper has to be posted in a separate ballot box. Some voters have posted their ballots in the wrong boxes, they tell Passant, and then were unable to retrieve them when they realise their mistake.

She reports that candidate representatives are trying to assist the voters.

Sheikh Zayed
A candidate Representative (L) showing an Egyptian woman where to cast her vote in a polling station in Sheikh Zayed, Giza, Egypt, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 (Photo: Passant Darwish)

09:30 Two of the four party-list constituencies are up for grabs today.

The first, West Delta, includes Alexandria, and comes with a total of 15 seats. Competition there is fierce between the Nour Party list, and the pro-Sisi Fi Hob Misr ('For the Love of Egypt') list. Also competing are  Forsan Misr ('The Knights of Egypt') and the combined electoral list of the Egyptian Front and the Independence Current.

In the party-list constituency of North, Middle and Upper Egypt, where 45 seats are available, Fi Hob Misr is also running, along with Nadaa Misr ('Call of Egypt') and Al-Sahwa Al-Watniya ('The National Awakening').

These constituencies are 'winner take all' - meaning that the party list that wins in each constituency will secure all the seats available.

09:00 Polls are now open around the country, and will remain open until 9pm tonight. There will also be a second day of voting tomorrow.

Ahram Online's Passant Darwish reports that women are already lining up to vote at a girl's school in the upmarket satellite city of Sheikh Zayed, just outside Cairo. Police have cordoned off the entrance to the polling station, she reports.

Security preparations for these polls have been tight; hundreds of thousands of police and military personnel have been mobilised to guard the polling stations. 

08:45 A total of 286 seats will be up for competition in the first stage, with 226 for independents and 60 seats for party-based lists.

Voting will take place today and tomorrow, with run-off rounds on 26-27 October for those individual constituencies where no single candidate scored more than 50 percent of the vote.

Some 27,402,353 voters are registered to take part in the elections first round, who include 13,257,507 women and 14,144,846 men, according to the High Elections Committee.

There are 2,573 electoral candidates competing in the first round.

08:30 The last parliamentary elections took place in the winter of 2011, and the resulting body was dominated by Islamists, with the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party taking 42 percent of the seats, and the Nour Party, Egypt's main Salafist party, winning 21 percent. Overall turnout was well over 50 percent, with some estimates suggesting it reached 60 percent. 

This year's election has seen some changes. The Muslim Brotherhood are gone from the political scene, although the Nour Party are still present and are competing in some, but not all, constituencies. Of the other parties who won seats, most are competing again in these elections.

Some observers are predicting a much lower turnout than in the previous polls.

There has also been a shift in the way MPs are elected; in the 2011 parliament almost two thirds of the seats (332 out of a total of 508) were elected via party list votes.

This year, the number of party list seats are far fewer -- just 120 out of 596. A total of 448 seats will be contested by individuals, and 28 MPs will be appointed by the president.

08:00 Voting starts in an hour. Egypt's High Elections Committee (HEC) has said that those who do not vote will be fined LE500, although such fines are practically never applied.  

Voters wait at a polling station in Giza's Dokki district (Photo:Mai Shaheen)

07:30 Welcome to Ahram Online's live coverage of the first day of the 2015 parliamentary elections.

Today, voters in 14 of Egypt's 27 governorates will head to the polls for the first day of a two-day vote. Expats began voting in Egyptian embassies worldwide on Saturday, and will continue for a second day today.

The 14 governorates included in this first stage of voting are: Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Beheira, Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh.

For more details about the election process, check out Ahram Online's idiot's guide.

Voters in the remaining 13 governorates will head to the polls on 22-23 November. After appeals and presidential appointments, the parliament is expected to be formed in early December.

The country has been without a parliament since the previous legislature, elected in late 2011, was dissolved in June 2012 after a court ruled key electoral laws to be unconstitutional.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi currently holds legislative powers.

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