Armed by wooden sticks, supporters of a candidate raise their sticks at a polling station in Nabrouh, Al Daqahliyah, some 200 km north of Cairo, Egypt. Photo: AP
Violent clashes took place at several voting stations today, with witnesses saying police fired tear gas at voters in the governorates of the Nile Delta, Suez, and Qena, south of Cairo, where some shops were closed due to street violence. In Suez, several schools were burnt down.
Police officials said several policemen and Brotherhood supporters were wounded in the Nile Delta city of Samanud in a clash that started when Islamists threw rocks at police guarding a polling station.
The Brotherhood said its candidates' representatives were kicked out of polling stations and attacked by police when they protested.
At least three people were wounded in the southern governorate of Sohag when a ruling party candidate's supporters traded fire with rivals.
Egyptian monitors, who had difficulties obtaining official monitoring permits, said informal watchdog systems showed election irregularities to be rife and evident from the start of the voting day at 07.30 am today.
Despite an official statement by the Higher Electoral Commission stating that the “elections are going smoothly”, informal monitors reported that excessive violence had led to the suspension of dozens of election committees across Egypt's 29 governorates.
In a press conference organised by the Democratic Front Party, which is boycotting elections this year, party chief Osama Ghazali Harb described the current elections as “regrettable". He said this year's elections are "a repetition to each Egyptian elections, a scenario where you see the control of a sole political party.”
Despite increased deployment of security forces aimed to tame any eruptions of violence, several deaths were reported. Among them, the son of an independent candidate in Cairo's Matariya district. Relatives said Omar Sayyed, 24, was stabbed to death on Saturday night while putting up posters of his father. A security official said the murder was a result of a private dispute.
In Gharbiya, in the Nile Delta, police used tear gas to disperse supporters of independent candidates after their delegates were prevented from entering polling centres to monitor voting, Egyptian monitoring groups said, adding that live rounds were fired from inside the centre.
Meanwhile, police said they had used tear gas to disperse clashes between supporters of rival candidates outside polling stations in Qena, about 475 kilometres (300 miles) south of Cairo.
In Suez, witnesses said hundreds of supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition candidates demonstrated outside police headquarters to protest being denied entry to the polling station.
Initial counts indicated low turnout in this country of 80 million, where polls are traditionally eyed with suspicion and where past elections have been marked by deadly clashes between police and protesters and battles between knife-wielding thugs.
Lawyer Mahmoud el-Khodary, of the Ouyoun coalition for election monitoring, said: "We knew that the elections would be doomed, but not to this extent."
According to El Nadeem Center, which is also monitoring the elections, eight people died in election clashes today, over 180 candidates were kidnapped, and more than 40 people were injured hospitalised. The Ministry of Interior denied these figures, saying there were only three deaths - two of them heart-attacks and not violence-related fatalities.
Ahram online reporters witnessed violence, clashes and votes buying in Cairo, upper Egypt, and Delta governortaes.
Polling stations are due to close at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT). The results are expected Monday.
Additional reporting by Ekram Ibrahim