Egypt's presidential 5 frontrunners from left to right: Ahmed Shafiq, Hamdeen Sabbahi, Amr Moussa, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and Mohamed Morsi (Photo: Ahram Online)
Asking officials from different presidential campaigns on where their respective candidates stood in relation to their electoral rivals on the first day of Egypt's presidential elections, estimates varied considerably.
Campaigners for the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi appeared the most confident. Yasser Ali, the Morsi campaign's media coordinator, told Ahram Online that their candidate was "likely to win the race in the first round of voting."
According to the Brotherhood's assessment, said Ali, Morsi's "main competitor" is former Brotherhood member Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, even though Morsi has maintained a "considerable lead." Ali went on to assert that reported electoral breaches were "insignificant" compared to Wednesday's high voter turnout. "These elections so far have been fair and impartial," he stressed.
Mohamed Osman, a campaigner for Abul-Fotouh, agreed with the Brotherhood's assessment, telling Ahram Online that Morsi represented Abul-Fotouh's primary rival. While Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq has also reportedly won a high number votes, Osman believes the runoffs will ultimately pit his candidate against Morsi.
Contrary to the Brotherhood's estimates, Osman believes voter turnout on Wednesday was low, while "numerous violations were reported." He went on to complain that certain candidates "had transported supporters to polling stations to cast their ballots."
Shafiq campaigners, meanwhile, refused to reveal their assessment of who the main competitors were and where they stood in relation to one another. Shafiq campaigner Karim Salem, however, stressed that his candidate had garnered "a lot of votes" on the first day of polling.
Most other campaigns agreed that former Arab League chief Amr Moussa had not done as well as expected. Moussa campaigners, for their part, however, said that their candidate had probably come in second after the Brotherhood's Morsi.
According to Moussa campaigner Ahmed Kamel, informal polls conducted outside polling stations on Wednesday revealed that Morsi had garnered the highest number of votes, followed by Moussa, Abul-Fotouh, Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi and – at fifth place – Shafiq.
Kamel went on to complain that, although the day could be considered a success overall, there had nevertheless been a considerable number of electoral violations, especially by the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. "There was a lot of vote buying," said Kamel, "and more than one candidate violated rules against last-minute campaigning."
Campaigners for Sabbahi, who according to many observers did much better than predicted, asserted that their candidate "came in first in many Egyptian governorates." According to the Sabbahi campaign's media coordinator, Hoda Abdel-Baset, the Nasserist candidate came in first in the governorates of Kafr Al-Sheikh, Sharqiya, Qalioubiya, Damietta, Aswan, Assiut, Gharbiya and Suez. Sabbahi campaigners see Morsi and Abul-Fotouh as their main competitors.
Abdel-Baset went on to complain of "several obstacles" encountered on the first day of elections, including "polling stations opening late, last-minute campaigning outside polling stations in violation of electoral laws, and certain stations closing their doors while voters still waited on line to cast ballots."
Thursday will be the final day of voting for Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential election, with polling stations opening their doors from 8am to 8pm. If no single candidate wins an outright majority in Wednesday's and Thursday's vote, a runoff round will be held on 16 and 17 June.