Relive day (2) of 1st round in Egypt's presidential elections - 24 May 2012

Ahram Online, Thursday 24 May 2012

Ahram Online captures key moments in the second day of Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential elections as millions of Egyptian voters headed to polling stations to cast their ballot

A child learns how to cast her ballot (Bassam Elzoghbi)

21:00 Polling stations across the country begin closing doors in preparation for vote collection and counting.

20:40 Head of SPEC Farouk Sultan said that no polling stations would be closed until the last person standing in queue casts the ballot.

According to Sultan, the vote count will start in the different electoral sub-committees after the voting period is finished, due at 9 pm Thursday. Each candidate's campaign will receive from each sub-committee the estimated number of votes it garnered.

The primary results of the sub-committees are, however, not final because they can still be appealed to SPEC and need to be revise during the total vote count done at the general committee. The final total number of votes obtained by each candidate will only be declared by SPEC after revisions and appeals.

20:25 Six activists are detained by police in Alexandria for distributing flyers urging voters not to cast ballots for Mubarak-era ministers Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq. The six are released a few hours later.

20:08 Al Jazeera English producer Adam Makary tweets:

'Man drives by media at #Suez polling station, asks angrily where's AJ, yells Moussa will win, argument erupts and he drives away'

19:57 The electoral operation room of Assiut governorate denied a report on Ahram's Arabic news website that a military police officer verbally attacked a judge.

19:55 Long queues can be seen at two of the polling stations in Heliopolis, Al-Rashid and Al-Tawfiqiya - all in Cairo.

Judge Safaa, head of one of the polling stations, says the turnout on Thursday is higher than Wednesday.

"70 per cent of the registered voters have cast their ballots so far. The candidates' representatives were helpful in assisting people, and no violations were reported," he added.

19:54 Severe traffic congestion is reported throughout the capital - especially in the Heliopolis, Abbasiya and Ain Shams districts - due to high voter turnout. 

19:50 The entire family of Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak have voted for Ahmed Shafiq as his successor, claims a cousin cited by Ahram's Arabic news website. Mubarak's relative in the Nile Delta village of Kafr Al-Meselha in the governorate of Menoufiya -- also the birthplace of the 84-year-old ex-ruler -- told a visiting Ahram reporter that his extended family are all backing Shafiq in this week's presidential elections.

Three supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi were reportedly injured in one of the villages of Sharqeya during a fight with Ahmed Shafiq's. The two groups were involved in a free-for-all in front of one of the polling stations, hurling stones at each other.

19:45 Salafist Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakkar said on his Twitter account that members of his party in Matrouh governorate informed him that candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh is leading there.

19:40 An elections monitor associated with a foreign embassy told Ahram Online, on condition of anonymity, that he saw some open ballot boxes in the Cairo neighbourhood of Dar El-Salam, fuelling speculation over possible irregularities in the vote counting process, which should start after 9pm. 

19:35 Egypt's health ministry announces that two voters had died on Thursday. Both men – aged 59 and 72 – reportedly passed away after suffering heart attacks.

The total number of injured voters on Thursday rose to 12 countrywide. Injuries reportedly included fainting and heart attacks.

19:32  A statement released by the Morsi campaign in Damietta puts voter turnout at roughly 60 per cent. Turnout is believed to have risen on Thursday, especially among female voters.

The statement also reports a handful of alleged violations, including last-minute campaigning by Moussa supporters, attacks by Shafiq supporters on female Morsi campaigners, and vote buying by Shafiq supporters.

The statement added: "The military confiscated three laptops from Morsi campaigners, even though they were far away from the polling station. The military also detained members of the El-Awa campaign for taking pictures inside a polling station."

19:15 A quick update on international dignitories inspecting Egypt's presidential elections. The president of Mauritius visited a polling station in Bulaq Abul-Ela, Cairo as an international election observer, checking electoral processes and monitoring the procedures. Japan's ambassador to Egypt visited Al-Shurafaa polling station in Al-Thaher, Cairo, and talked to some voters who said they faced no obstacles while casting their ballots.

19:00 With two hours to go until the polling stations officially shut and Egypt's presidential elecitons are officially over, here is some early analysis on who might win.

18:55 The Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie cast his vote in Beni Suef governorate, according to the Brotherhood's Ikhwanonline website. Our quiz: Which candidate do you think got Badie's ballot? Very difficult question, indeed.

18:50 Meanwhile in a polling station in Mahalla, Gharbia governorate, a man threatened to divorce his wife if she does not vote for Ahmed Shafiq. It remains to be seen whether the wife would risk her marriage for Hamdeen Sabbahi, who she was initially going to vote for. It seems the husband's threat is serious.

18:46 Salafist former presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail urges voters to support pro-revolution candidates to prevent old regime figures returning to power - read the full story here

18:30 Despite rumours of another electoral violation, Amr Moussa's campaign manager confirms that the presidential contender is not giving a press conference in Dokki right now.

18:15 Head of SPEC Farouk Sultan told Egyptian radio on Thursday that the turnout for Egypt's presidential elections has almost reached 50 per cent. According to Sultan, the electoral violations monitored on Thursday were much lower than those on Wednesday.   

Sultan's statement refutes widespread reports suggesting that turnout is much lower than initially expected. Maybe during the last few hours of voting there will be a significant increase of voters, let's wait and see.

18:07 Al-Ahram's Arabic news portal reports that a military police officer in an Assiut polling station verbally assaulted the judge. The judge then filed a complaint against the officer to the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission and the Ministry of Defense.

Another complaint was also filed by a judge in a nearby polling station in Upper Egypt against a woman in the Niqab (full veil) who refused to reveal her face to the female monitor during an identity check. The woman also attacked the judge for forbidding her from voting without showing her face.

18:04 American University in Cairo professor and activist Rasha Abdalla comments on the presidential campaigns' homegrown exit polls in this tweet:

"All campaigns say their candidate is ahead &competition is behind to convince people not to "waste" their votes on competition #Egyelections"

17:36 Egypt has closed the Rafah border crossing with Gaza for the second day running to allow employees to cast their votes in the presidential elections.

17:01 Judge Hisham Raaouf, head of Cairo Appeal court, said he had not expected "such a low turnout."

"Voter numbers were low compared to what we had anticipated. We expected a higher turnout than the parliamentary elections. However, this didn’t happen.

"This shows that the citizens are dissatisfied with either the electoral process or the presidential candidates themselves.

"We, as judges, are suffering from people's suspicion of the electoral process. This is not what we expected or hoped for. There is a percentage of illiterate voters who are easily influenced by the rumours that have been spreading, for example, about replacing electoral symbols. We hoped people would trust us."

16:35 As the voting process draws to a close, tensions rise between the presidential candidates and their support teams.

Former foreign minister Amr Moussa allegedly asked fellow presidential contender Ahmed Shafiq to pull out of the presidential race "so as to not split votes".
In an audacious political move, possibly in a bid to swing last minute votes, Ashraf Sweilam, a member of Moussa's campaign, told Orbit TV:

"It is clear now that Shafiq could only compete for the third or fourth place, so it is he better withdraw."

Shafiq's campaign hit back, insisting that the former prime minister remains one of the frontrunners to win the elections and that "the notion of pulling out had never crossed his mind".

16:27 Yosry Hammad, the official spokesman of Salafist Nour Party, said the party may stage a protest in front of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission (SPEC) if "it continued to ignore the violations that presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq has committed."

Hammad also revealed that the ultra-conservative party had filed two complaints against Shafiq on Thursday for violating electoral silence and "disrespecting law".

16:25 The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights has reported violations in the form of bribes for several candidates including Mohamed Morsi, Ahmed Shafiq, and Abul-Fotouh. The votes were allegedly sold for prices ranging from LE50 to LE150 in the governorates of Alexandria, Marsa Matrouh, Sharqia, Giza, Cairo, Qena, and West Fayoum.    

16:17 Mary Mourad, who has been reporting from Dar El-Salam district in Cairo gave us a flavour of the day's voting:

"The polling stations here are empty. People are going about things in a very quiet and respectful manner, voting and leaving without creating any disturbance. The elderly began arrived early in the morning to escape the midday heat, while the youth arrived later. There might be more arrivals after sunset. Women are coming with their children. Oddly, there are no ID checks for unveiled women or Niqab-wearing women. There are visible signs of electioneering around the polling stations, which would be in violation of the campaign blackout. However, there are campaign leaflets for Morsi strewn aimlessly at one of the polling stations in the area."

15:30 Across Egypt's polling stations, citizens reported confusion over their electoral identification number, required if you wish to vote.  Reportedly the numbers changed 48 hours before the polling stations opened. Consequently people had to scan through lists of thousands of names to locate their serial number, holding up the elections process.

15:07 While millions of Egyptians wait in anticipation for the country’s presidential election results, many recognise the dire reality that the upcoming president will need to face.

 Mahmoud Abdel-Fadil, an Economics professor at Cairo University, said Egypt's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew just 1.8 per cent in 2011, much less than a 5.1 per cent growth in 2010, according to AFP.

15:01 The head of a Densha city polling station in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena stopped 15 women wearing the Niqab (the full-face veil) from voting after they rejected a request from women inspectors to check their faces.

15:00 Ahram Online reporter, Lina El-Wardani, spoke to the family of Khaled Said, the young man brutally beaten to death by two police officers in Alexandria 2010 who became the iconic face of the January 25 Revolution. His family voted for Hamdeen Sabbahi in the Cleopatra neighborhood of the coastal city, amidst a warm reception from fellow Alexandrians.

Khaled Said's mother told Ahram Online:

"Sabbahi can return the rights of martyrs and injured of the revolution. He also has a chance of winning. Sabbahi is neither from the old regime nor from the Brotherhood; this is an important step towards change."It feels strange voting for a president without a constitution; we should have listened to ElBaradei, and had the constitution before presidential elections."

Khaled's sister Zahra added that he doubted the military's intention to hand over power, telling Ahram Online that the Egyptian presidential elections were a "historic moment because it never happened before, but I have little trust in the military running the process."  

14:45 Internationally renowned Egyptian singers Amr Diab and Mohamed Mounir have reportedly voted for Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi. Diab allegedly jumped ship during the 18 days and has rarely commented on the political situation of the country, apart from releasing a song for the slain protesters last year and voting in the parliamentary elections.

14:15 Hamada, a hairdresser at Kriss Salon in the satellite district of Sixth October City, Cairo, says he will vote for the "corrupt" Ahmed Shafiq in order to protect his "bread and butter". His staff, receptionist Sameh and worker Mina, echoed his sentiments, saying they will also vote for Mubarak's last prime minister.

"We don't want an Islamic state, although we believe in the revolution," Hamada told the Ahram Online reporter on Thursday, "We need a force to counteract the Islamist-dominated parliament ... we need someone to secure our jobs, to allow our wives to walk in the streets and help us raise our children safely.  I know he's a thief, corrupt and a liar but who isn't? The two Brotherhood candidates [Morsi and Abul-Fotouh]? Of course not! And Sabbahi won't reach the second round. I'll lose my job if an Islamist becomes president because my job will be forbidden. Our revolution has been stolen."

14:10 The presidential race heats up, as a member of Hamdeen Sabbahi's campaign reportedly physically attacked a member of Khaled Ali's team in Sabbahi's hometown of Batleem, in Kafr El-Sheikh governorate. According to Ali's official Facebook page, supporters of the two leftist presidential candidates literally came to blows during an argument over breaches of electoral law.  

13:58 More tension was added to an already volatile situation outside Mohamed Farid school polling station in Abdeen district, central Cairo, when a man said that he would cast his ballot for Hosni Mubarak, reports Al-Ahram correspondent Mohamed Mahrous.

The confused voter, in his fifties, said he would vote for the ousted autocrat because "he is the best, and no other candidate is as good as he is."

While many of the queuing voters harshly criticised the man, others sarcastically advised him to stick to his choice, so that his vote would be void!

13:53 Al-Ahram reporter Mohamed Essawy, in the Sers El-Layan district of the Menoufia governorate, says a 73-year-old Shafiq campaigner slapped his 25-year-old Abul-Fotouh counterpart across the face during a quarrel over the elections process. The Abul-Fotouh rep, who was at the Shaheed El-Malky school polling station at the time of the dispute, filed a report against the older man at the local police station.

The correspondent went on to describe the area:

"Number of voters have been increasing steadily since early morning. Voters who are not 'into politics' seem to opt for Shafiq. Yesterday, different groups from the Brotherhood naturally voted for Morsi. Numerous Coptic constituents cast their ballots yesterday too but it is not known who was their favourite candidate."

13:48 Al Ahram reporter Khedr Khodeir, gives a firsthand account of voting in the coastal city of Port Said. In February this year, one of Egypt's worst ever football disasters took place in the city's main stadium, where post-m atch clashes between rival fan groups saw over 70 hardcore football supporters killed.

"Port Said is witnessing a very high turnout of voters since the morning, especially male constituents. The way I see it, polling stations in Port Said are witnessing the heaviest security presence of the armed forces and police anywhere in the country.

At a major polling station for female voters at Fatima Al-Zahraa School, 90 per cent of women are wearing niqab while standing in queues since the morning ... a great many of the youth there are voting for Hamdeen Sabbahi and no violations have been spotted."

13:30 BREAKING: The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission has confirmed that polling will end today, refuting reports that it will be extended until tomorrow.

13:16 Midday Analysis: Ahram Online reporter Nada Al-Kouny, gives us a round up of the key points of the day so far:

·       By midday Thursday, turnout on the second day of voting in Egypt's presidential election has been moderate so far.

·       The scorching heat seems to be forcing many voters to stay at home until the weather cools in the early evening.

·       No major violations have been reported so far today, but various candidates have filed complaints against their rivals. The latest involves Mohamed Morsi against Ahmed Shafiq for breaking the ban on campaigning.  

·       Hamdeen Sabbahi is proving to be the dark horse of this presidential race, with larger than expected numbers of voters backing the Nasserist candidate. In most opinion polls before polling started, Sabbahi was in fourth place behind Moussa, Abul-Fotouh and Morsi.  

·       Ahram Online reporters at polling stations across the country have repeatedly said that voters seem more aware of their rights and keener to avoid disclosing their choice of candidate than they were during the parliamentary election."

13:04 On a lighter note, Sha'abi musician Hakim, famous for collaborating with legendary Blues singer James Brown, proudly shows off his ink-stained fingers as he votes today

12:54 Essam Sharaf, Egypt's first post-January 25 Revolution prime minister, has hinted on his official Facebook page that he had not, in fact, voted for former regime candidates for the presidency.

Although he did not directly mention ex-Mubarak ministers Amr Moussa or Ahmed Shafiq, as he preferred to keep his voting choice to himself, he emphasized that the candidate he voted for believes that last year's uprising is a "people's revolution" and that its demands have "not been met yet".

"Fulfilling the demands of the revolution should be his main aim and he should be able to create a national consensus among all political tendencies," he added.

12:48 In Helwan's Khaled Ibn El-Waleed school, Ehab Fikry, the head of the polling station, told Ahram Online that the second day of elections had been far quieter. His fellow judge Waheed Eid, however, was pleased with the progress of the day but wondered where the monitors where, as they had failed to turn up yet.  

12:45 Fights are continuing to break out between presidential campaign groups.

In Qoos Upper Egypt, Sabbahi fans claim they were attacked by Mohamed Morsi supporters, after they accused Morsi's followers of unfairly trying to influence voters.

Tensions are also rising between the Nasserist and Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the Nile Delta city of Faraskur. The Sabbahi supporters accused Morsi's campaign of setting up a tent, removing posters of
rival candidates and distributing food to sway votes.

12:40 According to the Muslim Brotherhood's a judge in Imbaba's polling station "number three" kicked out a delegate of Mohamed Morsi's campaign after he objected to a lady holding four ballot
papers in her hand inside the station.

The delegate added that this was not the first time that the judge in question had ignored such electoral violations.

12:37 BREAKING: Head of the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission Sultan Farouk just announced on Al-Hayat TV channel that voting will be extended by one hour to 9pm, like yesterday. 

12:29 We head to the Faisal area of greater Cairo, near Giza's majestic pyramids, where hundreds of voters have flooded to polling stations at Taba, El-Nahda and El-Rashidy prep schools.

Although the judges arrived just 14 minutes late this morning, tensions were high among voters, security forces and election observers, as voters, eager to cast their ballots, had been queuing patiently since 7am. 

12:11 Gamal Eid, human rights activist and supporter of the Khaled Ali presidential campaign tweets:

"I believe that surely one of the revolution's candidates will be part of the run-off. What's important is that Egypt's next president is democratic, not a remnant of the past regime, and not an extremist. Egypt is for everyone." 

12:03  Al Jazeera English Cairo correspondent Sherine Tadros comments on low turnout in this tweet:

"More press than voters at this polling station in Heliopolis ‪#cairo ‪#egyelections"

12:18 Al-Ahram reporter Mahmoud Dessoky describes the atmosphere in Qena governorate, Upper Egypt: 

"Qena is calm at the moment. The hot weather is affecting turnout but more voters are expected after 4pm."

"There is little enthusiasm for voting again in the runoffs in Qena because the majority of people here are very poor and they're fed up with these expensive presidential campaigns. They know the candidates are rich and have little in common with ordinary people.

"Emigration rates from Qena are very high and the people who live far away will not return here to vote. In addition, the elderly are illiterate and have been pushed to vote in the first round, not to mention the heat that is affecting the judges, employees and voters.

"The campaign teams of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Abul-Fotouh, Sabbahi, leftists, revolutionary youth groups, and the Salafist Nour Party have agreed to help dissuade large numbers of illiterate men from voting for Shafiq.

"If the voter says he wants to vote for Shafiq, the revolutionary youth tell him they can't find his name, or talk with him until he gets fed-up and leaves. Most of the illiterate people have been told to vote for Shafiq or Moussa [both former regime figures] by their bosses, but especially Shafiq.

"The FJP yesterday went door-to-door to persuade poor and illiterate housewives to vote for Morsi."

12:08 Sadly, an elderly man passed away in front of a polling station this afternoon before he had the chance to cast his ballot. He is the first voter to die in Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential elections.

Saleh Abul-Maged, a pensioner who was on his way to the polling station at Al-Galaa El-Tagreebia In Cairo's El-Zahar district, was pronounced dead at 72 due to a heart attack.

12:06 The Supreme Electoral Presidential Commission (SPEC) will hold a press conference Thursday at 8:00pm in downtown Cairo to wrap up the second (and last) day of Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential elections. The elections commission is also expected to announce when the vote counting will start and when the results will be announced.

11:59 Egyptian media is reporting that Egypt's de-facto leader Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Chief of Staff Sami Anan and Lieutenant General Mohamed El-Asar have been touring polling stations in Cairo. Yesterday an irate voter shouted at Tantawi, who had dropped into an Abbasiya polling station, to "do something" about the hour-long queues.                                                                         

11:42 Cairo-based Al Jazeera Journalist Adam Makray tweets

"Observers w/out Borders submitted 143 complaints yesterday, 69 of which cited illegal campaigning to influence voters ahead of polls ‪#Egypt

11:32 Ahram Online reporter Lina El-Wardani at the Alexandria Experimental School for Girls says:

"Turnout today is much lower than yesterday. According to the judge, 5,880 are expected to vote here, and only 25 have voted so far today, whereas 2,181 voted yesterday."

Waleed Khalaf of Abul-Fotouh's campaign has replied to allegations published in Al-Shorouk and Al-Masry Al-Youm newspapers yesterday that his campaign was gathering voters, giving them free rides to polling stations, and putting up posters and banners, all of which is against election rules.

"No, we didn't commit any violations. We just offered free rides to everyone. As for banners and posters, they were up before the campaign ban came into force."

Mohamed Yehia, a representative of Morsi's campaign, says, "We have filed a complaint to the police against people who accused the FJP of distributing groceries to voters, because it's not true."

 Magda Gomaa, a 40-year-old housewife, says, "I just voted for Hamdeen because he is one of us, poor like us, looks like us. He can secure our rights and he is kind. I feel great. I feel anxious and excited about voting because its 60 years since King Farouk fell and we've never had the right to choose our own government."

 "The runoff will be between Sabbahi versus Shafiq or Moussa," she says.

11:22 In Helwan's Om El-Abtal School polling station, two ceramic workers Mohamed Moslemany and Sherif Nissim say they will vote for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. 

"We need the president to be from the parliament so as he can achieve all his plans," they add in reference to the fact that the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party holds a majority of seats in parliament. 

Their comment is an interesting reflection on the predicted disputes between the People's Assembly and whoever will be the upcoming president, due to the vague descriptions of the state head's job in the Constitutional Declaration. For a deeper look at the potentially problematic relationship between parliament and president, have a read of this piece.

At Al-Rashad School, a police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed to Ahram Online that 4,000 voters have so far turned up at the school. He said the army and police are working hard to secure the polling stations and so far there have been no problems.

11:02 Happily, it takes Ahram Online reporter Salma Wardani only 10 minutes to vote at the Farouk Omar polling station in El-Bahr El-Aazam Street, Giza, this morning. This is despite yesterday's accounts of voters nearly fainting in hour-long lines, due to the heat.

At the women-only polling station she witnesses dozens of voters queuing peacefully, "yet with much enthusiasm." Voters this time round have been noticeably quieter about their choice of candidate, in comparison to November's parliamentary elections.  

"The women from the impoverished area are very careful not to talk openly about whom they will vote for. However, after voting they ask each other about their choices."

10: 55 Egyptian blogger 'The Big Pharoah' reflecting on the divided country tweets:

"An interesting thing about the ‪#EgyElections is that parents and their children vote for completely different candidates."

10:53 Al-Ahram reporter in Alexandria, Ahmed Sabry, says polling stations are open and the atmosphere is calm.

 "Voter numbers are expected to increase by 4pm just like yesterday. Up until now the turnout is low."

10:46 We're back at the foot of the pyramids in the Nazlet Al-Semman district, home to the men who hire horses and camels to tourists for rides around Egypt's most famous historical site.

Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Rahman, one of these horsemen, tells Ahram Online he is voting for the Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi. "He knows God and we want someone who fears God," the 40-year-old said, a phrase often heard at Morsi's campaign events. 

However, Sabry Mohamed, an equestrian trainer, says he will vote for Amr Moussa, after controversially admitting he used to support ousted president Hosni Mubarak. 

"I went to Tahrir Square along with others to show the media that we support Mubarak," he said. 

Nazlet Al-Semman horsemen were accused of involvement in the notorious Battle of the Camel, which saw armed thugs on camel and horse back storm Tahrir square, killing 11 protesters and injuring more than 2000.
Mohamed categorically refused to accept that Islamists would assume power. "Are they going to cover the Sphinx with wax?" he wondered. Ironically, he voted Freedom and Justice in the parliamentary elections.

10:41 Malek Adly, a lawyer, activist and supporter of the Khaled Ali presidential campaign tweets electoral law violations:

"A police officer at the El-Seka club polling station in Nasr City is campaigning for Ahmed Shafiq, but the presiding judge has refused to take any action against him, not even just to kick him out of the building."

10:29 Ahram Online reporter, Adel Mahmoud, describes the atmosphere in the Nile Delta Sharqiya governorate:

"It's a beautiful polling day, the atmosphere is very calm, the process is highly organised as people are lining up, entering polling station from one door and exiting from the other. The numbers of voters is building up now. Interestingly, we have see no presence of Islamists whatsoever, whether that's campaign representatives from the Brotherhood or the Salafists. I don't know whether this is planned or not. The Armed Forces are clearly exerting a huge effort in organising the process."