Fears of 'low turnout' prompts vote extension in Egypt

Dina Ezzat , Tuesday 27 May 2014

Egypt election
Election officials wait for voters inside a polling station on the second day of voting in the Egyptian election in Cairo, May 27, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) has extended voting in Egypt's presidential poll until Wednesday.

Government sources said pressure was put on the commission because of “the unexpectedly low turnout” which “could end up being lower than in the 2012 presidential election runoff.”

The 2012 runoff was boycotted by many voters as it offered a choice between an Islamist, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister. Turnout reached 50 percent.

There has also been discussions about allowing people to vote away from their registered polling stations.

The commission member said the request was being reviewed but would be difficult to carry out.

Any change in voting procedures could undermine the entire election and lead to legal challenges, he added.

“The PEC has noticed that media bodies and others have been questioning its decision to prevent people voting away from their registered polling station [linked to the address registered on their ID] and insists the attacks are unfounded,” the commission said in a statement.

Turnout on Monday was between four and nine million, according to various sources who spoke to Ahram Online.

Even the higher figure is way below expectations. There are no estimates about the turnout on Tuesday.

In his last public appearance before the ban on campaigning started on Saturday, El-Sisi said he hoped 40 million people would vote.

Interim President Adly Mansour also appealed for Egyptians to "impress the world" with a big turnout.

El-Sisi's campaign team and state-run opinion pollsters predicted turnout would match the numbers that protested against Mohamed Morsi on 30 June 2013 and celebrated his removal on 3 July.

In an attempt to boost turnout, the government announced on Monday night Tuesday would be a public holiday and banks would be closed.

It also "encouraged" the PEC to extend voting by one hour on Tuesday because the hot weather was deterring voters.

Many said the lower than expected turnout was due to the widespread belief that the outcome was certain. 

There has been a lot of finger-pointing at those around El-Sisi, whether in his official campaign or the wider supporting group. Criticism has been mostly but not exclusively directed at his media campaigners.

More sober voices suggest much of the blame should be directed at political and security advisers who failed to advise El-Sisi against certain decisions disliked by young people – the largest voting bloc. The protest law heads the list of ill-advised moves. 

“We tried to explain but we were outnumbered by those who insisted that the man [El-Sisi] had unshakable support,” said a lawyer with links to El-Sisi's team.

Some critics have said it was a mistake to allow known pro-Mubarak media figures to come out in support of El-Sisi.

“I was very concerned about this image of recreating the Mubarak regime. It is very unfortunate because really the man is not like that at all. He wanted a new beginning in every sense of the world,” said one campaigner.

El-Sisi knows he will win the election, but he wants an impressive turnout to provide a firm mandate and end talk that he was the man who led the ouster of Mohamed Morsi.


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