Blow-by-blow coverage of final day in Egypt presidential runoffs - Part 1

Ahram Online, Sunday 17 Jun 2012

Voters head to the polls on the last day of Egypt's polarising presidential elections to choose a successor to ousted strongman Mubarak in a race that pits a former regime premier against an Islamist

Voters check their names at a polling station in Cairo (Reuters)

16:00 The Um Al-Momaneen Al-Haram Girls School polling station in the urban Giza governorate appears to be seeing higher turnout than most of the area's other polling stations. Women's polling stations in general appear to be drawing more voters than those reserved for men.

Groups of women, veiled and dressed in black, cast ballots together. Although initially reluctant to talk to reporters, they eventually reveal that they plan to vote for the Brotherhood's Morsi.

When asked by Ahram Online why they would choose the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, they say their decision is based on the group's Al-Nahda programme for national renaissance.

The women are confronted by a Shafiq supporter, who accuses the Brotherhood of intimidating the people of Giza's Omraniya district and calling them 'infidels' if they vote for Shafiq.

Outside the polling station, a disinterested 30-year-old Sherif Mohamed distributes flyers advertising his shop. He tells Ahram Online that he spoiled his ballot because neither candidate appeals to him.

15:45 A foreign ministry spokesman announces that final results for expatriate voting would be officially announced Monday. According to initial reports, the vast majority of Egyptians living abroad – especially those based in the Gulf – cast ballots for Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi.

15:30 Following the trend of the day, low turnout is also reported at the Ahram School polling station in Giza's sprawling Haram district. Judge Sherif El-Ghodiary, head of the station, told Ahram Online that less than 400 voters had showed up so far.

"Only 1900 out of 5296 registered voters have showed up since voting began on Saturday morning," he said. "This is mainly due to the hot weather."

15:10 Things have heated up in northern Ismailiya governornate, says Ahram Online's reporter Khaled Lutfi and the military are out touring the streets:

"Clashes erupted between Shafiq and Morsi supporters at one local polling station because a nearby kiosk had displayed posters of the latter. The posters were immediately taken down by security forces.

Army planes fly over the city, ostensibly to monitor the elections. Two army representatives, majors-general Samy Diab and Farid Hegazy, tour the coastal city to ensure there are no violations.

Voter participation remains limited, due largely to hot weather. Some employees prefer to spend the two-day vacation – decreed by the government to encourage citizens to vote – at home.

Most women, meanwhile, unlike their male counterparts, appear keen to vote. Voter turnout in Ismailiya currently stands at almost 35 per cent."

14:35 Members of revolutionary youth groups in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Assiut make good on their threat to boycott the poll. Ali Sayed, coordinator of the April 6 Youth Movement (Democratic Front) in Assiut, said that, while they had decided not to cast ballots, they would nevertheless continue monitoring the election process.

Abdel Nasser Youssef, member of Egypt's Revolutionary Youth Coalition, said that those who had gone to the polls had only done so to spoil their ballots.

14:18 Security forces in the urban Giza governorate stopped 177 cars carrying posters of presidential candidates Shafiq and Morsi in violation of the current period of electoral silence, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website.

Police confiscated the posters and slapped the drivers with penalties.

14:05 Hani El-Asmar, Ahram Online's reporter in the governorate of South Sinai, has sent us the following update:

"Turnout in the morning was very low because the temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius. In the morning, the polling stations were completely empty. The number of voters began to increase by noon, but turnout was not as high as yesterday.

The governor said yesterday that turnout had stood at some 40 per cent, but, according to my estimations, it probably peaked at some 20 or 21 per cent. I expect voter turnout to rise considerably after 4pm.

From what I have seen and voters I've spoken to, most Copts, Bedouin, liberals and tourism workers have cast ballots for Shafiq. Islamists do not have a foothold in South Sinai, which is home to roughly 7,000 Copts.

In the first-round vote, most Bedouin tribesmen abstained because they live in the heart of the desert, far from residential areas. Many of them don’t have any means of transportation. In the runoff, Balaam Petroleum Company in Abu Gereif provided buses to bring voters to polling stations, which are about 77 km from Wady Fran. The decision came after the governor had said he could not allocate public buses to transport voters. In the last parliamentary elections, MPs used to provide Bedouin tribesmen with transportation to pick them up from their homes and drop them off again."

13:57 It seems Shafiq is retaining his influence in Cairo's working class district Shubra, where he enjoyed an overwhelming victory in the first round.

In Al-Teraa Al-Bolokiya in Shubra, Teresa Mansour said she will choose Shafiq because "he is classy and well-educated and will be able to move the country forward."

"God is on Shafiq's side. God does not like Islamists, that’s why parliament was dissolved," she added.

Tahani Ali, a voter in her 30s, will also vote for Shafiq because "the Brotherhood is strict."

"Both Muslim and Christians want a tolerant president," she added.

13:42 Al Jazeera International producer Evan Hill tweets: If turnout stays as low as lawyers' syndicate said (15%), we might see a president elected with around 3 million votes in a country of nearly 90 million people 

13:31 The Supreme Presidential Elections Commission (SPEC) has announced that the final day of voting in Egypt's presidential elections runoffs will be extended from 8 to 9 pm before polls close. Conspicuously low turn out since this morning is being attributed, in part, to the extremely hot temperatures prevalent throughout the country. SPEC hopes more voters will head to the polls as the sun sets, and temperatures lower.

13:12 Muslim Brotherhood monitors in Fayoum Governorate, around 130 km southwest of Cairo, claim to have spotted a polling employee voting on behalf of constituents, according to the group's official website.

The employee was seen marking the voters' ballots, the Brotherhood stated. Monitors suspected he could be taking advantage of illiterate voters, deceiving them and, in fact, voting for a particular candidate, not the candidate they chose.

Monitors filed a complaint against the employee and requested he be removed from the polling station.

13:05 According to Adel Mahmoud, Ahram Online's reporter in the Delta governorate of Sharqiya, a member in Ahmed Shafiq's campaign quit his post to register his opposition to the candidate's electioneering methods.

Islam Abdallah, Shafiq's media coordinator in Al-Ibrahimiya resigned from the campaign because "the campaign hires ex-prisoners and thugs to rally behind the former prime minister."

Ahram Online's Mahmoud also saw cars using loudspeakers to convince voters to choose Shafiq, warning them that if they decline to do so "they will pay a fine of LE100."

"The turnout is high among women in Sharqiya. Most of the women and elderly people are voting for Shafiq," he stated.

12:53 On Twitter, talk hovers around today's seemingly low turnout and the weather:

Journalist joseph dana sums it up in this tweet: Incredible heat, impenetrable , lackluster presidential candidates, no more parliament.. no wonder has low voter turnout today.

12:45 At Fouad Galal School in Old Cairo, our correspondent Yasmine Fathi reports small queues. A university professor, who did not want to be named, said she wants to choose Morsi because she believes a win for Shafiq would mean "the end of the revolution".

"The media has been waging a war against Islamists so that people vote for Shafiq," she added.

12:36 Whether the weather is hot or whether the turnout is low, the Muslim Brotherhood – as always – is putting on a positive face, claiming turnout is better than that of the first round and that their man is doing well.

Azza El-Garf, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and a former member of the now dissolved parliament, told Ahram Online's Bassem Abbas that around 14 million voters took part in the runoff vote on Saturday.

"The turnout is not as low as many people say. Eleven million people voted on the first day of the first round while 14 million participated on the first day of the runoff."

"There are no indications of who is leading, but Mohamed Morsi is doing well."

She added that the Morsi and Shafiq's campaigns have "committed very few violations, which do not affect the voting process".

On the ground, however, reports from our correspondents indicate that turnout is lackluster.

12:18 For the second day in a row, army helicopters have been sighted hovering above polling stations across the country, as the military powers that be make a concerted effort to impress their committment to law and order.

12:12 Mohamed Abdel-Raouf, a Morsi delegate at Islamic School in the satellite suburb of 6 October City in Giza, told Ahram Online that "the whole suburb voted for Morsi."

"That's why you will not find any representative for Shafiq here," he told Ahram Online's Bassem Abbas.

Sanaa Ibrahim, a 43-year-old housewife in 6 October, said she would spoil her ballot. "I'm worried about the LE100 fine if I don't go," she stated.

Authorities warned voters during last year's parliamentary elections that they would be fined EL500 if they did not fulfil their patriotic duty and vote. They replicated their warning ahead of the presidential elections, but the fine has been trimmed to LE100.

However, such penalties have never been implemented and are widely seen as a way to coax voters into taking part in polling process.

11:49 Said Sadek, professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo, offers his views on the elections:

"Turnout among women is high for two reasons: Some women are afraid of Islamists and others are mobilised by Islamists. Shafiq could come out on top through the army's vote rigging," told Ahram Online, adding that class resentment and religious pretexts motivate niqabi women to vote against a class construct typified by unveiled women. 

"The turnout among youth is low, however, because they are disappointed. Revolutions are never straightforward."

11:35 Ahram Online's reporter in Port Said, Khedr Khodeir, has sent us the following update from the coastal city:

"The atmosphere is calm in 12 polling stations. The number of women voters is higher than their male equivalents; the women polling stations are crowded. Just like the first round, it seems women are more determined to vote."

11:22 In a response to yesterday's rocket fire into Israel, proved to be a Shafiq bastion in the past two election rounds, Israeli security officials are heaping the blame on Morsi and the Brotherhood, according to this Agence France-Presse (AFP) article:

The two rockets, apparently fired from Sinai, which landed near towns in the deep south of Israel were linked to the Egyptian presidential election, a senior Israeli security source told AFP on Sunday.

"The rockets fired at Israel over the weekend were a one-off and carried out by those who wanted to influence the Egyptian presidential election," he said referring to militant groups in the Sinai.

Israeli sappers on Saturday recovered the debris of two rockets, both of which landed near towns and villages in the far south of the country, police and the army said.

Police said they responded to two reports of explosions at around 1:00 am on Saturday (2200 GMT on Friday), one in the Negev desert and the second in the Arava desert not far from the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

Unnamed Israeli defence officials quoted by Israel's Haaretz newspaper on Sunday claimed that Bedouin militants were behind the rocket fire under orders from Gaza's Hamas rulers, following a request from the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi is one of two candidates who are fighting for the Egyptian leadership as the country votes in a presidential run-off this weekend.

But senior defence ministry official Amos Gilad ruled out any involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in an interview with Israel's army radio.

"The Muslim Brotherhood wants to change the face of the Middle East and doesn't get involved in attacks," he said.

"Many extremist elements operate in Sinai with the support of Iran and Hezbollah, and we are investigating who was behind the firing," he said.

"We want to preserve peaceful relations with Egypt. It is in our interest and also in theirs."

11:14 Returning to the capital, Al-Farouq Primary School and Gamal Abdel-Nasser School polling stations in the working class district of Dar Al-Salam are also seeing low turnout figures. Ahram Online's reporter gathered from the presiding electoral officials and judges that around 30 per cent of registered voters in the two schools had cast their ballots so far in the two-day polling process. The number of elderly voters is nearly double that of youth voters.

10:59 The tide is low in the coastal city of Alexandria, where turnout seems to reflect a general apathy, according to Ahram Online's correspondent on the ground, Ahmed Sabry.

"There are no queues, just like yesterday. The atmosphere is very calm in Alexandria. I'm expecting more people to come to polling stations afternoon."

10:48 April 6 Youth Movement issued a press statement this morning denouncing the arrest of 30 of its members across the country on Saturday. They were detained for what authorities deemed "illegal campaigning" after they held aloft posters of the revolution's 'martyrs.'

"The police officers told the activists 'the revolution is over' and 'the circus will be over after the elections'. They clearly revealed their hatred of the revolution," the movement said.

Most of the detained were released, except the five activists who were arrested in Cairo's middle-class suburb Heliopolis.

10:36 Oddly enough, Judge Badawy Idris, who is presiding over a polling station in Gamaleya said he is satisfied by this morning's turnout. Ahram Online's Yasmine Fathi, however, says there were only 20 voters when Idris said so.

More reports of low turnouts are also emerging from the working class district of Shubra in Cairo, where at the Hadayeq Preparatory School security forces are outnumbering voters.

10:30 Khalil Agha School in Old Cairo's lower-income district of Gamaleya is also witnessing a low turnout. Considering that Egyptians generally take to the polls early in the day to avoid the midday swelter, these low numbers seem to indicate that  people are less excited to go and vote.

10:24 The state of play in Egypt's ongoing elections isn't the only thing Shafiq's campaigners are losing sleep over. Ahmed Shafiq's Facebook page slammed Ahly football player Mohamed Abou-Treika for refusing to pose for a photograph with a Shafiq delegate in the polling station where he voted on Saturday.  

"Unfortunately, we used to respect you," the page said.

Abou-Treika wore a t-shirt, emblazoned with the statement "The day I give up your rights, I'll surely be dead" as he voted for Brotherhood candidate Morsi.

9:52 AP journalist Sarah El Deeb captures a widely felt sentiment in this tweet: There is no energy among voters this time ap photographer said. I agree

9:40 In Al-Gamaa Al-Omaleya School in Darb Al-Ahmar, the turnout remains low. Sayeda El-Sheshtany, a member in Ahmed Shafiq's campaign, says she has not seen any violations so far.

"The turnout yesterday was moderate because of the heat. I hope today the turnout will be larger," she added.

9:27 Ahram Online's Yasmine Fathi in Al-Helmeya Al-Togarey School in Old Cairo's lower-middle class district of Darb Al-Ahmar, said the queue for women remains short about an hour into the opening of the polling station.

Salah Hamdi said he would choose the Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi because "he is pro revolution."

"We should have waited until a new constitution is drafted so that we can know what powers the president will have," he added.

Ali Sultan says security is the most important factor for him, highlighting an incident in which his car was stolen by thugs recently. However, he declined to reveal his preferred choice.

9:14 Ahram Online's Yasmine Wali has sent us the following update from 6 October City:

Bassem, a 29-year-old chef working at a petrol station café, told Ahram Online that he had voted for Hamdeen Sabbahi in the first round of elections and will vote for Ahmed Shafiq today.

"We cannot let the Brotherhood take charge of Egypt," Bassem added, echoing a fear held by many of his compatriots that Morsi would turn the country into a repressive, religious state.

The café's cashier, Ahmed, however, said he would choose the Morsi. "I can't abstain, I don't want to be passive. One of the two candidates will win anyway," added the 29-year-old, who voted for moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh in the first round and will travel north to Tanta, his hometown, to cast his ballot.

"We don't want to reproduce the old regime, that's why I will go for Morsi," he said.

8:45 Ahmed Shafiq's campaign began their morning in full mudslinging form, posting a YouTube video via their Twitter account warning Egyptians that the Muslim Brotherhood is "trying to turn the country into another Iran." The video showed scenes of May's bloody clashes between protesters and the army in Cairo's Abbassiya district, near the Ministry of Defence.

Shafiq has been playing to the fears of many Christians and secularists, accusing the Brotherhood of trying to impose Sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) and curb freedoms.

8:00  Polling stations begin opening their doors to the voting public. At certain stations, queues had already begun to form outside in anticipation of the final elections day.

Good morning. We've entered the second day and final day of polling in Egypt's presidential runoff elections.

The first day of the runoff vote was overshadowed by numerous accusations hurled by the campaigns of Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq against each other.

Violations such as illegal campaigning in front of polling stations, vote-buying, directing voters to choose a certain candidate and arranging votes for military and police personnel were very common on Saturday. However, both campaigns shied away from reporting any fraud or vote rigging.

Farouq Sultan, the head of the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission, confirmed in a press conference that both candidates have committed elections law violations during the first day of the presidential runoffs. Overall, Sultan added, the first day of presidential elections was "90 per cent successful."

"We observed more breaches committed by one candidate than the other," Sultan said but refrained from naming whether it was Shafiq or Morsi.

The turnout on Saturday was relatively low, given the extremely hot weather that forced many to remain at home.  

Many voters seemed unenthusiastic about heading to the polls, a stark contrast to a somewhat festive atmosphere seen in the first round and last year's parliamentary elections.

Large swathes of the electorate are disconcerted by having to make an unpalatable choice between Shafiq, who served as prime minister in Hosni Mubarak's last days in power, and the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi.

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