Egypt activists call for mass vote spoiling in presidential runoff

Randa Ali , Sunday 10 Jun 2012

With less than a week to go before Egypt sees the vote pitting Morsi against Shafiq, activists are renewing their calls for a boycott

vot spoilers
Vote spoliers press conference, June 11 2012 (Photo: Randa Ali)

Egyptian activists pushing for voters to spoil their ballot papers in the presidential election runoff have held a news conference to publicise their campaign.

The Sunday afternoon event to promote the 'Mobteloon' ('Vote Voiders) campaign was held at El Sawy Culturewheel and chaired by activists Mohamed Ghoneim and Mahmoud El-Hetta as well as human rights campaigner Ghada Shahbander.

The three presented the conference beneath a larger banner emblazoned with the slogans: "Spoil your votes, spoil their legitimacy" and "No to military fascism, no to religious fascism." Kicking off at 12.30pm, the event saw limited attendance.

Speaking to the audience, Ghada Shahbander said that the Egyptian people have the responsibility for circulating the idea of spoiling ballots and raising awareness of the campaign.

She claimed that a large number of ex-pat voters had spoiled their ballots since overseas runoff voting began last week.

The 'Mobteloon' campaign has gained fuel from the first round of presidential elections, when many activists complained about alleged vote-rigging and an "illegitimate" electoral process.

A boycott campaign entitled 'Mokateaon' was embraced by a number of revolutionaries in the first round vote and is continuing to push for large-scale ballot spoiling.  

Asked during the news conference about the possibility of a clash between the two campaign, Shahbander said both are working for the same goal.

"We met with Mokateaon and we both believe our individual tactics will be more  influential. There's nothing harmful about that," she said.

The campaign also faced criticism from some who claimed a boycott could actually play into the hands of the candidates they are spurning.

Some said a boycott will help the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi; others claimed it may boost the chances of ex-prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.

Mohamed Ghoneim described such claim as "nonsense".

"Democracy is to vote for who you believe in, not to go and vote by force," he said. "In detesting both candidates, we create a third, alternative way."

Ghoneim further explained the importance of spoiling one's vote. 

"If it happened that the turnout of spoiled votes is close enough to the votes of the winning candidate, it would be a vivid sign of the size of opposition that awaits him," he said.

The campaign's co-founder, Hazem Abdel-Azim, came up with the idea of documenting the number of spoilt votes by mobile phone text messaging. By sending a text message to '6015', a voter can state that he or she is spoiling their vote or boycotting, and give the name of the governorate where they are registered.

Abdel-Azim wasn't present at the press conference due to personal reasons, said Ghoneim.

Towards the close of the event, activist Mahmoud El-Hetta reiterated the campaign's stance in a statement.

The statement confirmed that those participating in the campaign will not vote for Mubarak's military man nor for the candidate of an already dominant party.

"They both do not represent the civil state we aspire for," it said.

El-Hetta added that "we are voting for the revolution – we are the majority. We are 12 million".

During the new conference, Inas Mekki from the Baheya Masr movement suggested the parliament adds a 'none of the above' option to the voting paper.

"We need to emphasise that our aim isn't the elections but rather those controlling them. Ut's their legitimacy that we need to take down," said Yehya Abdel-Shafi from Mokateon

Also present at the press conference were members of the Shayefnkom (We see you) campaign which has been monitoring elections in Egypt since 2005, as well as representatives from the Karama party and the Revolution Youth Coalition.

The initial voting in Egypt's presidential elections took place between 23-24 May.

Since none of the 13 candidates garnered a clear majority (over 50 per cent), this left the top two candidates: Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and Mubarak-era prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, to compete in the runoffs which start in Egypt in mid-June.

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