Indications of 'high participation' as Egyptians vote with enthusiasm on first day of presidential elections

Zeinab El-Gundy , Monday 26 Mar 2018

A man casts his vote inside a polling station during the presidential election in Alexandria, Egypt
A man casts his vote inside a polling station during the presidential election in Alexandria, Egypt March 26, 2018. (REUTERS)

Noha Mohamed stood outside the polling station in the upper-middle class neighborhood of Dokki, in Giza, waiting for her friends to finish casting their votes in a presidential election, the outcome of which everyone already knows.

“Yes, I voted for the other guy, but I support president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi,” the housewife in her mid-30s told Ahram Online, adding that she voted for lesser-known Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the incumbent's rival in the elections.
Despite her surprising choice, she wishes that President El-Sisi will focus on solving economic problems in the next four years. The focus on Egypt’s economic problems seems to be a common wish for almost all the voters Ahram Online spoke with in Cairo and Giza since the opening of the polls at 9 AM in major areas.

Siyad Abdu, who cast his ballot at Abdeen secondary school polling station in downtown Cairo, preferred not to say whom he voted for. The working-class pensioner in his 70s was nonetheless determined to reveal what he wanted from the next Egyptian president.

“I want him to raise our pensions,” he told Ahram Online. The old man added that the upcoming president should help Egypt's youth by finding a solution to the problem of affordable housing.

Mohamed and Abdu are just two of 59 million eligible voters to have cast their ballots at one of Egypt's 13,706 polling stations.

As of midday, senior citizens had a moderate turnout and a noticeable presence at the polling stations, as they tend to go vote when the polls are less crowded.

“The youth are expected later in the evening after finishing their work at 5pm or 6pm," a judge supervising the polling station at the Ministry of Agriculture in Dokki told Ahram Online. 

As he spoke, an old lady was helped by her daughter to cast her vote. The daughter, in her late 50s, snapped a photo of her mom while she cast her vote.

Senior citizens, especially women, had a joyful time taking selfies with inked fingers or photos with army officers securing the polling station, all while declaring their support for incumbent Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. Such photography is officially banned by the National Elections authority “NEA”, but the judges overseeing the polling stations have no objections.

The NEA reported in a 3pm press conference that there have been no major problems or complaints, except among a very limited number of polling stations that were late in opening.

The polling stations will remain open in Egypt until 9pm, and close for one hour per day from 3-4pm so 18,000 judges and their 110,000 administrative assistants and the security forces may enjoy lunch.

Unofficial campaigns supporting current President El-Sisi for another term were noticeably present in the streets.

DJs in pickup trucks blasted cheerful patriotic songs while roaming various Cairo and Giza neighborhoods to encourage voter turnout while campaign volunteers distributed flags and t-shirts to voters.

Other set up tents at nearby polling stations to help voters, especially the elderly, find their polling stations.

Current President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi cast his vote earlier on Monday in a New Cairo polling station.

His rival, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, voted Monday afternoon at a Downtown Cairo polling station.

Although the odds are not in his favor, Moussa attracted huge swarms of foreign and local media awaiting him at his polling station.

In a small press conference there, he expressed his satisfaction with the elections process and how the Egyptian youth had stood beside their country by showing up to vote.

Many Egyptian political, social, artistic and sports figures went to vote on Monday, calling the public to do so also.

In one Dokki polling station in Giza, Ahram Online met with veteran actor and comedian Lebleba, who made sure that her vote was documented by photographers, but the judge supervising her polling station was not as complacent as others.

“I just want to give the citizens a model to follow, they must come and vote,” she told him.

Outside the polling station, she told Ahram Online that Egyptians must show the world they voted in the presidential elections, declaring her support for President El-Sisi.

Dr. Amr Mohamed, a physician in his late 40s, told Ahram Online that he wished that more people had shown up at his polling station in the Agricultural Museum Complex in Dokki, Giza.

“I know it is early but still people must go and vote. Egyptian expatriates had a high turnout but this [here] is not good,” he said, expressing his dislike for what he saw as low turnout by 10am at his polling station.

In its midday press conference, the National Elections Authority (NEA) stated that initial turnout indications showed “high participation” by voters on the first day of the elections, with the highest voter turnout registered in Cairo, Alexandria, Giza, Qalioubiya, the Upper Egyptian governorates of Assiut and Aswan and in North Sinai.

Egyptian expats voted across the world from Friday to Sunday last week. Their official turnout has not been declared by the NEA, but photos and videos showed a moderate turnout in some countries in Europe and higher turnout in the Gulf, where millions of Egyptians live.

The presidential elections in Egypt still have two days to go. They will close Wednesday evening. 

Read Ahram Online's live blog covering the first day of voting

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