(Follow our blow-by-blow account of the second day of Egypt's first genuine multi-candidate elections, starting at 8 am (CMT) on Thursday, 24 May, 2012.)
May 23, 2012
21:00 Polling stations are set to close for the first day of Egypt's presidential elections at this minute.
20:50 Army officers intervened to put an end to a melee, which took place in Kafr El-Zayat, Gharbiya, involving the supporters of Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, a judicial source told Ahram Online. Both sides accused each other of violating the electoral law.
20:45 In the eastern Delta governorate of Sharqiya, the campaign of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq filed complaints with the SPEC against two polling station heads claiming they acted in a biased manner against their candidate.
According to Shafiq campaign coordinator Ghada Mahmoud, one of the polling station heads was seen discouraging voters from marking off the former prime minister on ballots by pointing out that Shafiq was one of the ousted president's associates, and that another polling station head was seen directing voters to pick the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsi.
20:35 Ahram Online reporter in Port Said says several polling stations have refused to extend the voting period by one hour as per the SPEC's instructions, leading to heated arguments between army personnel and would-be voters.
The canal city of Port Said witnessed high voter turnout throughout the day, especially by female voters.
20:30 Presidential hopeful Mohamed Selim El-Awa was held inside a mosque in the working class Bakous district in the city of Alexandria after a gunfight broke out in the surrounding area, the state news agency, MENA, reported. El-Awa's campaign denied that this was an assassination attempt.
Alexandria is the third largest governorate in Egypt, home to 3.2 million voters.
20:20 An electoral representative of presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafiq's campaign went into labour while she was observing the voting at a polling station in Minya in Upper Egypt.
The new mother, Kamelia El-Sayed Ibrahim, was quickly taken to a hospital, where she gave birth to a boy. Ibrahim named her newborn son Shafiq, after the former Mubarak prime minister she supports.
20:15 Voter Telmeeza Khalil Awad was surprised to find that, according to the voting list, she had already cast a ballot at a polling station in Cairo's Haram district, indicating that someone else has voted using her name.
20:10 Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri declares Thursday a day off for employees of the state administrative sector to enable employees to cast their ballots in Egypt's presidential elections.
20:00 April 6 youth movement, which played a key role in the ouster of Mubarak, said in a report that most of the electoral breaches were committed by candidates Ahmed Shafiq and Mohamed Morsi.
Bothaina Kamel, head of watchdog "Shayfeencom", echoed their sentiment, pointing finger at Shafik and Morsi.
19:55 Polling stations in Cairo's Abdeen district witness increasing turnout, especially by female voters, after temperatures fall and the SPEC extends official voting period by one hour to 21:00.
19:50 Eyewitnesses report increasing voter turnout at polling stations in Cairo and Alexandria during the final hours of the first day of elections. Voters flooded many polling stations in Egypt's two largest cities following the end of working hours.
19:40 Ahram Online reporter in east Cairo's Hadayek El-Kobba district says voters are showing relative respect for a ban on campaigning outside of polling stations: People only whisper the name of their favourite candidate to co-patriots standing in lines.
19:25 A voter in one of the polling stations in the Nile Delta Gharbiya governorate found his name listed on the voting roster more than 50 times. Cases of voters' who were registered in multiple entries on voting lists were a recurrent phenomenon during past parliamentary elections.
19:15 Former Mubarak Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq was attacked by protesters who hurled stones and shoes at him after he cast his ballot in a polling station in the New Cairo suburb of Cairo. Some families of the revolution martyrs had been carrying pictures of their slain relatives and chanting against ex-regime figures since Shafiq first arrived at the station.
19:05 The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said on their website that two of their members have been detained by the military after officers accused them of campaigning for Mohamed Morsi in front of a polling station. The FJP denied the army's accusation, saying that the members were standing at a far distance from the station when they were arrested.
19:00 A representative of presidential candidate Mohamed Selim El-Awa's campaign filed complaints with the SPEC against representatives of the campaigns of presidential hopefuls Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and Mohamed Morsi claiming they violated the electoral silence period.
18:55 According to MENA news agency, the head of the State Litigation Authority Club, a judges' union, Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Taha announced that the electoral violations which had been substantiated by his group so far were minor, saying that the Club believes the election process has been impartial and fair in general.
The majority of the violations witnessed were of campaign members, stationed within the 250-metre no campaigning zones around polling stations, using their laptops to assist voters find their respective polling stations.
1870 judges from the Club are monitoring the presidential vote throughout Egypt.
18:45 Many voters in two villages in Assiut governorate in Upper Egypt, Bani Edriss and El-Monshaa El-Soghra, decided to boycott the presidential elections to protest the shortage of bread and cooking butane cylinders. Residents said they hoped their action could attract media attention to their daily troubles.
18:40 Several human rights organisations, including the Front for Peaceful Change, Kalema Association and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights have reported some election violations committed by the campaigns of two candidates.
According to reports released by the human rights group, cars with Amr Moussa's banners were reportedly seen transporting voters to polling stations. In addition, Abul-Fotouh supporters allegedly used laptops to guide people to their respective polling stations as a way of campaigning for their candidate.
18:30 Secretary-General of the SPEC Hatem Begato announced that the electoral commission overseeing the voting process has extended the voting hours for Egypt's president on Wednesday, the first in two days of casting ballots, by one hour past the previously set 8pm deadline in order to accomodate rising voter turnout.
18:20 An Ahram Online reporter has been spotted by passersby in the posh Mohandessin district's Mostafa Mahmoud Square campaigning for "Batman." Along with several of his friends, the twenty-something man held a banner aloft supporting the legenday comic-book superhero for Egypt's presidency.
The rally turned out to be part of a Facebook campaign, which started last Friday, underscoring the benefits Egyptians would enjoy - namely, the restoration of domestic security - if the people elected Batman as the country's first post-Mubarak president.
The Joker was not, apparently, available for comment.
18:00 Time for that time-honoured Ahram Online tradition: the changing of the guard. A fond farewell from the morning's live update staff to all our readers. Our more than capable evening team will be here until polls close tonight at 11pm.
Keep following our blow-by-blow account of the first day of Egypt's first genuine multi-candidate elections. We'll also be back on tomorrow to start all over again for the second day of these momentous elections.
17:55 According to official state news agency MENA, Amr Moussa campaigners have lodged a complaint at an Alexandria police station in which they claim to have been asaulted by supporters of rival candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh.
17:43 Voter turnout in Kafr Al-Sheikh, a governorate with a heavy Islamist presence, has increased noticeably after Ahram Online's correspondent reported low voter numbers in the early hours of the morning.
17:35 Here is a list of some of the reported electioneering violations committed up to now:
Mohamed Abdel-Salam, Sabbahi’s campaign delegate in Tanta governorate, said he witnessed the distribution of laptops inside a polling station.
In Cairo's Sadat School voting stopped after a verbal exchange took place between Shafiq's delegate and the judge, who objected to the illegal campaigning of the delegate.
A large number of voters in a polling station in Nasr City did not find their names in the list of voters.
Abul-Fotouh's presidential campaign claimed that in the Suez governorate, some army soldiers tried to coax people into voting for "one of the remnants of the dismantled regime", declining to mention his name.
17:23 The Egyptian Meteorological Organisation has cautioned voters against heat exposure as they queue to cast their ballots.
Weather forecast officials urged Egyptians "to avoid standing for too long in the sun."
Temperatures approached 35 degrees Celsius in Cairo on Wednesday.
17:15 The Supreme Presidential Elections Commission (SPEC) says it has "strictly" dealt with violations committed by certain presidential candidates and their supporters who defied a ban on last-minute campaigning outside polling stations.
"There were three incidents in which candidates and their supporters violated electoral rules. The commission filed complaints against them with the public prosecution," SPEC head Farouk Sultan stated at a news conference.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and ex-Brotherhood figure Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh have all given interviews recently, despite the ban.
Sultan also said that several judges had pulled out of the monitoring process "for health reasons," denying earlier reports suggesting that they had been forcibly excluded.
17:02 Here is a taste of the polling process outside the capital from Al-Ahram correspondent Islam Radwan:
About half of the residents of two rural villages, Beni Idriss and Al-Mansha'a Al-Soghra, in the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut have announced they are boycotting the election in protest of months-long shortages of bread and cooking gas supply in the villages, according to Radwan.
The boycotting residents of the two villages, who boycotted last year's parliamentary election in protest of the deteriorating supply of bread and cooking gas, have renewed their boycott.
Under the slogan of "Boycotting for the sake of a better life," the villagers spoke out against the continuing negligence by municipal authorities to respond to the shortages.
The popular committee in Beni Idriss responsible for the boycott of November's parliamentary polls initiated calls for a presidential election boycott days ahead of Wednesday's vote.
Popular committee members hanged posters on homes around the village, calling for a boycott. Later some of the residents of Al-Mansha'a Al-Soghra, which also boycotted the parliamentary elections, joined the Beni Idriss boycott.
"The boycott turnout was much higher during the parliamentary polls than this time around. Today, you could say around half of them have boycotted while the other half went to vote" Radwan to us.
16:43 Dozens of protestors in Cairo's wealthy Zamalek seem to have finally been roused by news of Ahmed Shafiq's popularity, demonstrating in Abul-Fada Street against the candidature of the latter and Amr Moussa.
Protestors called on voters not to cast there ballots for either of the two, since they belong to the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Police asked the protestors to leave, cautioning them against disturbing the election process; the demonstrators willingly complied.
16:30 Major General Hamdi Badeen, head of the military police, visits a downtown Cairo polling station flanked by six officers, asking if any electoral violations have taken place.
15:54 UPDATE - Hatem Bagato, the secretary general of the SPEC, denies earlier reports by Al Jazeera Mubashir and other news sources in a press conference, clarifying that the police officer was in fact killed late Tuesday.
15:50 Check out our PHOTO RECAP from polling stations across the capital, as Egyptians vote for their new president.
15:36 Abul-Fotouh and Morsi campaigners in 6 October City told Ahram Online correspondent Yasmine Walli that they will not only observe the election process and protect the polling station but also oversee the vote count.
Mohamed El-Fiqi, the judge at the Zayed Secondary School, told Ahram Online that he has not observed any violations since the start of polling, adding that there has been a high voter turnout.
15:24 The Muslim Brotherhood's Ikhwanonline.com account tweets about leading Freedom and Justice Party MP Mohamed El-Beltagy:
"After casting his vote, Beltagy says 'we have been waiting for this day for 7,000 years'"
15:02 Rami Salah, the coordinator of Sabbahi's campaign in South Cairo, speaking from the Mokattam district's Gabal Al-Sabah School, tells us that Sabbahi has received a majority of the votes, while the Brotherhood's Morsi was favoured by constituents in two other schools in the same district. Salah also stressed that the April 6 Youth Movement is helping Sabbahi's campaign in the Khalifa area.
Al Jazeera English reporter Rawya Rageh says Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a Hamas leader, has arrived in the canal city of Ismailia to cast his ballot in the elections.
Al-Zahar obtained Egyptian nationality because his mother is of Egyptian descent. Al-Zahar stated in an earlier statement that he intended to travel to Egypt in order to vote for an Islamist candidate.
Abul-Fotouh, Morsi and El-Awa are the three Islamist candidates in Egypt's presidential election.
15:00 Egyptian activist and creator of the influential Facebook page "We are all Khaled Said", Wael Ghonim tweets:
"I just voted for AbolFotoh :)"
14:42 A campaign billboard of presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi in Greater Cairo's Sheikh Zayed district, is reversed as it violates electoral law. Lobbying was officially suspended Monday, 48 hours ahead of the elections.
Voter shouts at General Mohamed El-Aser in Nasr City polling station (Photo: Nada El-Kouny)
14:36 Ahmed Shafiq talks about the dangers of an Islamist victory, AFP reports:
"Former premier Ahmed Shafiq, told AFP Wednesday the country would face 'huge problems' if his Islamist rivals won as Egyptians flocked to the polls on the first day of voting.
Shafiq added that voters had made a 'mistake' by allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to win in earlier parliamentary elections.Shafiq, who also held a news conference to disprove last minute rumours suggesting he was ill, said he was gaining support because voters believed he could 'stop' the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.
His main rivals include ex-foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, former Brotherhood member Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and the Brotherhood's representative Mohammed Morsi.
'There would be a huge problem,' Shafiq told AFP when asked about the prospect of a Muslim Brotherhood or Islamist victory.
'The Brotherhood has proved in the past months that it is completely rejected by the Egyptian people,' he said.
'The Egyptian people made a big mistake in trusting the Brotherhood, and now we are suffering from their actions,' he added."
Shafiq was referred to the general-prosecutor Wednesday afternoon for holding an illegal campaign press conference.
14:29 In 6 October City, an army officer has kicked out two people for talking about candidates while queuing. This is the only violation confirmed thus far by our correspondent in the satellite neighbourhood. Constituents are reportedly pleased with the electoral process.
In the Twitter-verse, Brookings Doha Center Director Shadi Hamid tweets from Abul-Fotouh's campaign headquarters:
"Abul Futouh supporter tells me he's worried AF is a lot of ppl's 2nd choice, which will hurt him if ppl don't vote strategically. #egypt"
14:24 Ahram Online reporter Nada El-Kouny covering the Tabari School in Cairo's Sheraton neighbourhood spoke to monitors associated with African-Egyptian human rights NGOs. The monitors inform her that as of now the electoral process has proceeded smoothly in the five schools they've visited.
Observers are checking faces of women in niqab. They have, however, received a complaint from one of their colleagues about Shafiq and Moussa campaign posters. The police eventually tore down the posters.
14:13 We've just received confirmation from Egypt's interior ministry of the death of a police officer in Cairo's working class district of Rod Al-Farag, after he was shot in front of a polling station Wednesday morning.
Corporal Ahmed Abdel-Mawla was hit in the chest by a stray gunshot during a street fight between armed civilians on Wednesday morning, a ministry statement announced.
The driver of a passing car was also wounded in the crossfire.The ministry's statement added that police officers pursued and captured three of the participants. Two were carrying firearms when apprehended.
Preliminary investigations say that the fight erupted early on Wednesday, sparked by an initial, short brawl between a tuk-tuk driver and a passenger over a disputed fare. The disgruntled passenger is said to have returned with several companions to exact retaliation against the driver. The fight escalated and firearms were used.
Local sources told Ahram Online that neither the shooting of the corporal nor the fight itself was related to Wednesday's presidential elections. A local polling station judge also denied there being any connection.
14:02 Ahram Online reporter in Kafr Al-Sheikh says that a judge booted out one of Hamdeen Sabbahi's observers from a polling station, after he objected to a Mohamed Morsi campaigner misinforming an illiterate man, who wanted to vote for the Nasserist contender, that Sabbahi's electoral symbol (the eagle) was Morsi's (the scales).
14:01 In the coastal governorate of Marsa Matrouh, 240 km west of Alexandria, Al-Ahram reporter Ahmed Nafadi describes the turn out as "low."
"Tight security measurements can be witnessed outside all polling stations" says Nafadi, "while the army is providing wheel chairs to elderly and handicapped voters".
According to Nafadi, the low turnout can be attributed to the long distances that many voters must travel in order reach their polling stations.
"Some voters from the Siwa oasis have to travel up to 12 kilometres to reach their polling stations."
13:50 Hamdeen Sabbahi was involved in an argument with a man in his late 20s, according to Ahram Online's Yasmine Fathi, while queuing at Al-Sayeda Khadiga School, when the younger man tried to jump the queue.
The Nasserist candidate reacted emotionally, telling the young man things have changed and every citizen must take wait their turn.
13:45 At a polling station in Cairo's working class district of Imbaba, a woman judge, Nadia El-Shahawi, told Ahram Online that she has witnessed only one electoral violation. Mohamed Morsi campaigners tried to promote the Muslim Brotherhood candidate inside the polling station before the judges kicked them out.
13:35 According to state media, SCAF head and de-facto ruler of the country, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi is following the elections process from his head office in the Ministry of Defence, accomapanied by SCAF deputy and Chief of Staff of the armed forces, Sami Anan.
SCAF's generals have been keeping a close eye on electoral proceedings, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic news website: Mohamed El-Assar is overseeing the governorate of Cairo; Mokhtar El-Molla, Gharbiya; Ismail Itman, Menoufiya; Salaheddin Abdel-Qader, Beheira; Sami Sadeq, Alexandria; Kamel Abdel-Hadi, Mansoura and Shebl El-Gamsi, Port Said.
“Today is like a carnival for all Egyptians. They are selecting their president freely for the first time,” El-Assar told media, adding that “SCAF members are following the procedures everywhere, making sure that all constituencies are secured and no violation of any kind occurs.”
13:25 Our reporter in Manshiyat Nasser tells us there are no observers or NGOs monitoring the elections there. However, there are representatives of Shafiq, Morsi and Sabbahi.
13:21 Wellknown activist Gigi Ibrahim summarises one aspect of public opinion in this tweet:
"Every person using the martyrs names for this day #EgyElections ..F*** YOU!"
She went on to add
, "Martyrs died for bread, freedom, and social equality, when those things are established then praise & thank them otherwise shut up, please"
13:19 Al-Ahram's Arabic news website says activists at a polling station in the working class area of Al-Talbiya in Cairo's Haram district are distributing anti-Mubarak regime flyers.
With a photo of Gamal Mubarak and the now-defunct National Democratic Party's logo on one side and text reading, "Since Gamal couldn't run in these elections, you can vote for these candidates instead" on the other, activists hope to dissuade voters from casting their ballots for Mubarak-era ministers Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq.
13:08 We have our first bits of news from the well-to-do district of Heliopolis, where women casting their votes in Korba are standing in long, winding queues. Yet again it seems that Egyptian women are more zealously embracing their enfranchisement.
Some are carrying their toddlers and trying to explain the importance of this day. Others are wearing their swimming suits underneath their clothes, ready to enjoy the remainder of their holiday.
Even Korba shops were enthusiastic: bakery shop TBS offered Heliopolis residents free breakfast (croissant and Danish) after they cast their vote and showed their inked fingers as proof. TBS Maadi is also extending this offer.
Baraka, a large sunglass chain, are also offering incentives for voters, tendering a tremendous discount on designer sunglasses if you vote and show your inked finger. It's certainly good to be politically conscious in these wealthier areas...
Al-Orouba School, a Heliopolis polling station allocated for women, witnessed some disorganisation but voter turnout was high nonetheless. The female judge sought the help of an Abul-Fotouh campaign observers, asking them to be responsible for distributing the electoral registeration numbers of the constituents after their original numbers were changed.
When asked, the judge told Ahram Online that this is not illegal as long as the campaigner is standing outside the polling station while still within the school's walls. She said she has documented this fact and everybody has the right to file a complaint to the electoral commission if they believe she acted inappropriately.
Certain actions by the Abul-Fotouh campaigner caused a voter to voice displeasure; a verbal spat ensued, causing security forces to step and contain the situation.
12:55 Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi arrived at the Al-Sayeda Khadiga School in Cairo's upscale Mohandiseen. He stated that the elections so far are transparent and that he has witnessed very few violations. The Nasserist candidate also sounds his satisfaction at voters' positive attitudes. Sabbahi also stressed he will accept the results of the election no matter what.
12:47 In Alexandria, Egypt's second city, some polling stations opened late due to the tardy arrival of judges, a procedural problem that occurred frequently during parliamentary elections.
The Activists Without Limits movement, which is monitoring the election, reports violations in the coastal city by members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are backing Mohamed Morsi.
Alexandria's popular districts have seen high turnout in comparison to middle and upper middle class areas. However, more voters are expected to turn out in the afternoon.
Elsewhere, North Sinai has seen high turnout since early morning, especially in Al-Arish. Judges at polling stations are only allowing accredited journalists to ply their trade.
12:37 In a flagrant breach of electoral law, presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq tells journalists gathered in a campaign press conference at his lush villa/ headquarters in Dokki that "he is a man with an honourable history."
Within minutes, the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission referred Mubarak's former prime minster to the prosecutor-general's office, as all campaign activity was officially suspended on Monday ahead of Wednesday's vote.
Shafiq began the presser by dispelling yesterday's rumours that he was in a coma after being shot, which he believes were intended to spread anxiety and spark controversy during the election process.
Shafiq assures his audience that he was the one candidate who was able "to prevent Egypt from descending into a bloodbath" and that "those who scare Egyptians from voting for me want a weak president."
Despite being ousted from the premiership by protesters in February 2011, Shafiq promises a "bright future" for Egypt's revolutionary youth and to "return the revolution" to the young demonstrators if he is elected president.
One journalist challenged him by saying that he had worked with Egypt's past three presidents, but Shafiq responded that he was not working for the regimes but rather he had been "working for Egypt."
12:24 A judge, speaking to Ahram Online on condition of anonymity, says Dakhla Oasis in Wadi Al-Gedid governorate has seen a particularly low turnout. In one polling station, only 50 constituents out of 1500 had cast their votes by midday, he says. Abul-Fotouh and Moussa are leading, with Shafiq trailing in a close third, according to the judge.
12:13 Egypt's stock market is seeing sluggish trade as the presidential elections get underway.
"Investors are busy voting, they haven't been following the market," market analyst Mostafa Badra told Ahram Online.
12:08 On a lighter note, Google reimagines their Egyptian parliamentary "doodle" for today's presidential elections. I wonder whether these slim-legged letters are also casting their votes for Shafiq.
Morsi billboard is reversed as it violates electoral law, Sheikh Zayed (Photo: Yasmine Walli)
12:03 Yet another instance of campaigning masquerading as voter-awareness drives outside of polling stations. Supporters of Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi are using laptops to help voters find their electoral register numbers and urging them to vote for Morsi in front of Shubra stations, including the Shubra High School for Boys.
11:55 BREAKING: Al Jazeera Mubashir Egypt (JSC) reports that a low-ranking police officer has been gunned down by unknown assailants in Cairo's low-income Rod Al-Farag district while hanging a list of voter names on a wall.
More details to follow as soon as we have them.
11:46 A relatively small queue of women in Cairo's Al-Basateen district complain of their sons' unemployment after many years of education but seem unsure for whom to vote.
"Some things can wait but not security or garbage problems," one of them says, referring to the lack of police presence in their area and the growing sanitation issues.
"What have the beards done for us?" a few of them say.
Egyptian-based NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin tweets at 10:56am:
"Judge in Kafr el Sheikh polling station has shut down voting citing discrepancies & irregularities in voter registration records #EgyElex"
11:43 According to Ahram Online reporter Yasmine Walli, the head judge, Hanan El-Khatib, of the Abu-Bakr Al-Sadiq School in 6 October City stated that a women was arrested for reportedly photographing her ballot in order to receive compensation for Shafiq vote.
At another 6 October City polling station, Nahdet Misr School, a judge, maintaining anonymity, confirms,"We have no violations until now, thank God; campaign representatives are sitting inside the polling station in silence not breaking electoral law by speaking to voters."
11:38 Shafiq is seizing both headlines and votes today, but upper-income neighbourhoods like Zamalek aren't the only areas showing massive support for the former prime minister.
At the Gabarti School, one of the largest polling stations in Manshiyat Nasser – a district with a large Coptic Christian population, Shafiq is highly endorsed.
Observers from the Sabbahi's campaign team allege that two of Shafiq's supporters outside the polling station are handing voters their voter registration numbers, a possible indication of vote rigging. He also claims Shafiq has hired microbuses to transport Coptic voters at his own expense.
11:35 Ahram Online journalist Nada el-Kouny reports heated discussions between General Mohamed El-Assar and voters at Ibn Nafisa polling station in Nasr City, as members of the public lodge complaints.
Inside a Dokki polling station (Photo: Ekram Ibrahim)
11:31 Under a piping hot sun in the Upper Egypt governorate of Qena, 600 km from Cairo, Ahram correspondent Mahmoud Dessouki reports that everything is calm outside the polling stations as Mubarak's last prime minister, Shafiq, seems to be snapping up most of the votes.
"With a high percentage of Qena's residents being Copts, and after the 73-year-old candidate's meeting with 18 ex-parliamentarians from Mubarak's now defunct National Democratic Party, Shafiq seems to be dominating the vote so far."
However as Dessouki explains, many of the pensioners, who arrived early this morning to avoid the midday heat, will vote for Nasserist candidate Sabbahi.
"There is a kind of nostalgia here for the times of Egypt's nationalist leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who was from Upper Egypt himself; many elderly people see Sabbhi as his natural successor."
In a number of of the governorates rural villages, water has been cut off for more than two weeks.
"The residents of Nagaa Abdel-Kader and the villages around it are travelling to surrounding areas to get water for the army, police and judges who came to Qena to oversee elections, saying that providing water to their guests is even more important than standing in long queues to vote," Dessouki reports.
There are around one million registered voters in Qena, but with recent sweltering conditions, however, many are choosing to wait until the afternoon.
In the governorate's Abu-Tisht Centre, judicial sources told us that the turnout could reach up to 40 per cent. They state that most of the constituents are men, who intend to cast their ballots for Amr Moussa. The judges, who spoke on condition of anonymity since they are not authorised to speak to the media, say the Brotherhood's Morsi is a distant second choice.
10:57 Magdi, a Christian voter in Shubra, tells our reporter that he will vote for Shafiq because he is a tough man who can stand up to the politically dominant Islamists. Voting based on anxieties of an Islamist take-over could see former regime figures Shafiq and Moussa sweeping Christian and secular votes.
Ahram Online reporter Simon Hanna tweets:
"One woman at shobra polling station complaining of unstamped ballot papers, same complaint every election! #egypreselections #egypt"
10:51 Guardian journalist Jack Shenker tweets about rising tension between members of the public at Cairo's Al-Shohadaa' metro station:
"Man on metro starts booming about the greatness of Ahmed Shafiq...Full-ruckus ensues, everyone's shouting and finger-jabbing. Some pro-Sabbahi elder women look ready to smack the Shafiq-lover in the face."
10:48 We're back again to the posher side of town, where Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq seems to be gathering plenty of votes. It's lattes, chic jumpers and designer sunglasses, I'm afraid, and a perplexing retrogressive trend.
Zamalek's Faculty of Physical Education for Girls School, the turnout is high but there are no female employees to check the identities of voters wearing face veils. Many ballot papers are not stamped as the judge is operating at a particularly slow pace.
10:35 At the Faculty of Fine Arts' polling station in Zamalek, a local monitor, who chose to remain anonymous, says there have been no violations on the men's side. However, on the women's side there were problems caused by the tardiness of the civil servants assigned to man the station.
Across town, in the low-income Cairo district of Manshiyat Nasser, there are no queues of voters. In front the Omar Bin Al-Khattab School, women wearing face-veils are holding ballot papers to show constituents how to vote. Their voting tutorial, however, comes with a nudge to vote for the Brotherhood's candidate, Mohamed Morsi.
10:26 Everything seems calm in the canal city of Suez. Long queues outside the Canal Preparatory School are proceeding smoothly as the polling station opened its doors on time.
Maha Mohamed, a 53-year-old civil servant stands in the women's queue while her husband, Mohamed Shahin, stands in the lengthy men's queue, both waiting to vote for Abul-Fotouh. "I feel comfortable with my choice and with the security outside the poll station. I hope everything goes fine," says Maha Mohamed.
According to Maha, her sons will vote for Hamdeen Sabbahi later in the afternoon. "They are both university students and want a president from Tahrir Square", she says, "but for me Abul-Fotouh is also from Tahrir; his Islamist background makes me want to vote for him even more."
Shahin, Maha's husband says that he would have voted for Hazem Abu-Ismail if he were not disqualified from the elections. "I considered voting for Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, but my sons convinced me that it was not right," he adds with a smile.
An Ahram reporter in Suez, Sayed Nun, reported earlier this morning that the army and police were removing campaign posters and banners from outside several schools in Suez, especially in Al Arbaeen and Ganayen areas, where huge banners were hung.
10:14 Our reporter in the 6 October City of Nahdet Misr School reports that there are no security forces present.
10:10 Ahram Online reporter Lina El-Wardani tweets from outside a Shubra polling station that there is a heavy security presence:
"The army rooming the streets in shubra"
Egypt's military out in full force near Shubra polling station (Photo: Lina El Wardani)
10:09 Ahram Online reporter Ekram Ibrahim tweets:
"Inside polling station in #Dokki So far things are calm and smooth. #EgyElex"
Google's Egyptian presidential elections doodle
10:06 Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi and his competitor Abul-Fotouh are casting their votes at Nasr City's Ibn Nafis School. Ahram Online's reporter says nearly 5000 upper middle class men and women are queuing to vote.
10:04 Cairo correspondent for The Wall Street Journal Matt Bradley tweets that Egypt's de facto leader Field Marshall Tantawi has arrived in a Abbasiya polling station:
"Guy standing in line at Abasseya yelled at Field Marsall Tantawi [sic]: "Hey I've been waiting for three hours! What are you gonna do about it?"
9:57 The female-only polling station at Abu-Bakr Al-Sadiq School in Cairo's Dokki district is very crowded. Voters started to gather from 6:30am. Some voters are yelling at the deployed security forces to let them in and complaining of the slow process.
A woman in her 60s says she is "very excited and happy, because I do not know if the candidate I'll vote for, Amr Moussa, will win or not."
In Nasr City, a middle class Cairo suburb, Ahram Online's reporter Salma Hussein says 8 out of every 10 voters are backing a pro-revolution president. One of the voters, a mother, says the next president will not be corrupt out of fear of the people's anger.
"Tahrir Square is there, all candidates will bear this in mind," she says.
9:45 Heading back to Shubra's Ansaf Seri School, Um Mohamed, a teacher in her 50s, is very pleased to finally be able to choose her own president. She will be casting her ballot for Ahmed Shafiq because he will bring "stability" to the country and she has liked him "since he was prime minister." She says the Muslim Brotherhood has done nothing for the people since the last year's uprising.
In 6 October City, an army officer is removing posters of candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi from walls near the Nahdet Misr School.
9:35 Ahram Online reporter Lina El Wardani, outside a Shubra polling station, tweets:
"Mb still distributing grocery"
Muslim Brotherhood outside Shubra polling station (Photo: Lina El-Wardani)
9:30 Presidential candidate Amr Moussa is voting at the Fatma Anan School in the affluent Greater Cairo district of New Cairo. His house is about 20 minutes away from the polling station. The elderly politician insists on standing in the long queue and waiting on his turn. There are about 1000 voters there, according to our man on the ground.
The formally dressed Moussa, however, refused to speak to the media in order not to break the 'campaign blackout' orders of the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission. He is not being escorted by his supporters.
9:20 After waiting in a long queue since 7am, Wafaa Abu-Ouf, 63, a retired teacher decided to leave the polling station in Maadi Secondary School for Girls without casting her vote.
"They say the judge arrived late to the polling station and that is why they are opening the doors 45 minutes late, but I really can't wait," she said.
Abu-Ouf told our reporter that she will return early Thursday morning to vote. "My daughter lives in Suez but will have to vote in Maadi, so she will wait for her husband to vote their today and come tomorrow."
With three long queues, one for women, one for men and one for the elderly, the voters standing outside the mid-income suburb stop each other from talking openly about who they will vote for, however Ouf said that she found it very hard to choose her candidate.
"Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abul-Fotouh have been my favourites as they represent the revolution and might have a chance to win, but finally I decided to vote for Abul-Fotouh."
As Ouf was explaining the reasons for her choice, a semi-truck, plastered with images of Islamist candidate Selim El-Awa, drove past the poll station. "He too is a decent man and I will be happy if he wins! Anyone will be fine for me as long as he does not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood or the old regime."
9:14 Al Jazeera producer Evan Hill tweets:
"Jimmy Carter arrives at this girl's school in Sayyida Zeinab."
The Carter Centre is a US-based NGO devoted to democracy promotion. It is among three foreign non-government organisations that have been authorised by Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission to observe the polling process and vote-counting procedures.
9:10 In Zamalek, Karim Hamama, 22, says he will vote for Shafiq because "he is a strong military man who can protect the army, but I am worried that the elections are taking place in these circumstances," referring to a lacklustre security presence.
Ashraf Omar, a 54-year-old man at the same polling station, says he will vote for Shafiq as well because he wants someone from the military to assume power. He said, "In any country the army protects the people. The Muslim Brotherhood are held culpable for the tension between the people and the army in Egypt."
Hussein Ghonim, a university professor who voted for Shafiq too, was very pleased with the organisation at the polling station.
9:00 Business tycoon and founder of the Free Egyptian Party Naguib Sawiris is queuing with voters at the Faculty of Fine Arts' polling station in Cairo's upscale district of Zamalek. Our correspondent says long lines of women and men have already formed. Many complained that the polling station opened about 30 minutes late. If last year's parliamentary elections are anything to go by, Cilantro and other coffeehouse chains will hopefully provide Zamalek with the sufficient amount of caffeine necessary to survive the long wait.
8:45 The Muslim Brotherhood's political wing the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) release a statement about Egypt's "first real presidential elections in all its history" praising the Egyptian people for voting in November's parliamentary elections and emphasising the importance of voter participation in these presidential elections, via their website ikhwanweb.com. The Islamist group are fielding presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi, who, the group says, has travelled to Zagazig to cast his vote.
"The Freedom and Justice Party expresses sincere greetings and deep appreciation for the Egyptian people, who struck an outstanding example of civilised political awareness through positive and effective participation in the recent parliamentary elections of the People's Assembly (the lower house of parliament) and Shura Council (the upper house).
Those earlier elections were the first stops for the train of democratic transformation. The presidential elections, on May 23 and 24, bring that train quite near to the conclusion of its historical journey in Egypt.
The FJP emphasises that the participation of the people in these elections positively and effectively is the real guarantee of the integrity of the elections the people have been awaiting for such a long time, in search of stability, development and a future that shall place Egypt in a well-deserved leading position amongst world powers.
The FJP asserts that the success of democratic transformation requires electing a President [sic] capable of managing Egypt through a presidential institution based on justice, freedom and independence.
Such success also requires harmony between state authorities, especially the executive and legislature, in order for those to best serve and advance the interests of the people and ensure fulfilment of the January 25 revolution’s goals and demands."
8:30 Our correspondent in 6 October City, on the outskirts of Giza, says the Nahdet Misr School in the Motamayez district has opened its doors for voters. The polling station is designated for female voters only. Most of the constituents are veiled, according to our reporter.
In front of the school, a mother in her early 40s complains to Ahram Online that the Muslim Brotherhood has backtracked on their decision not to field a candidate. Another woman defended their decision, saying they were forced to after circumstances changed. Some voters are bringing their children along.
The Ansaf Seri School in Cairo's large district of Shubra, where Coptic Christians maintain a sizeable presence, is being secured by a handful of military forces. The process, thus far, is organised.
Speaking to our reporter, most constituents at the Shubra school stated their intentions to cast their ballots for either Ahmed Shafiq or Mohamed Morsi.
8:15 Good morning. It's official: Egypt's presidential elections have commenced. At just past 8am, reports are coming in that some polling stations have opened on time while others have yet to allow in voters. Queues are already long, snaking around the block in certain areas. Students and staff enrolled in schools acting as polling stations have been granted a holiday for this two-day process.
Millions of Egyptians head to polling stations across the country Wednesday to cast their ballots in Egypt's first genuine multi-candidate presidential election.
Voters have 11 candidates to choose from, with several frontrunners leading recent independent polls: Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader and centrist Islamist candidate; Ahmed Shafiq, ousted president Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister; Amr Moussa, a former Mubarak-era foreign minister and one-time secretary-general of the Arab League; Hamdeen Sabbahi, a Nasserist candidate with a recent surge in support from revolution-allied figures; and Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate.
Wednesday's and Thursday's first round of presidential elections, however, will not transpire without certain deep-seated worries. Ambiguities weigh heavy ahead of these historic polls, namely the fact that the new president could begin his tenure in the absence of a constitution determining his responsibilities and powers.
By most accounts, 30-40 million citizens (60–75 per cent of eligible voters) are expected to head to the polls on Wednesday out of a total of 53 million eligible voters.
The last time Egyptians went to the polls in September 2005 to vote, in what authorities sold as "multi-candidate presidential elections," the ousted president secured 87 per cent of the vote (6.3 million votes), thereby extending his long reign.
In November and December of 2011, more than 30 million Egyptians (60 per cent of eligible voters) participated in the country’s first post-revolution parliamentary election, which handed Egypt's Islamist forces – repressed for decades under the former regime – a deciding majority.