Relive day 1 of Egypt's presidential runoffs (Part 2)

Ahram Online, Saturday 16 Jun 2012

Ahram Online captures key moments from across the country's polling stations during day one of Egypt's divisive presidential runoff elections

Mohamed (L) and his wife Magda vote at a polling station in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo (Reuters

21:45 This live update team will sign off for the night - stayed tuned for more updates tomorrow, we'll be up bright and early to cover the finale of the presidential elections.

21:30 During a long day of voting under the blistering sun, Egypt's Ministry of Health documented a total of 24 Egyptians injured or taken ill. Casualties suffered mainly from fainting and suffocation due to heavy crowds,  said the report, with 15 patients referred to hospital and nine treated on-site.

21:30 Security personnel have shut up shop, after Egypt's polling stations have closed. Many complained of a long and miserable day's work.

One of the disgruntled security men was young military lieutenant, Ahmed Zarif, deployed at Al-Aziz Bellah School in the middle class district of Zeitoun, who spoke to Ahram Online reporter Eslam Omar.

"I spent the last two days in the street without going home, and will spend the next two in the same way. It is really hard to deal with people under such immense pressure; and you have to be friendly and cool all the time, especially as most people here are respectful and decent." 

Zarif added, "At my polling station, photographing was completely prohibited. I was strictly instructed by the military police to lock up anyone who tried to take any photos here."

Some policemen, also complained of the long working hours and exhaustion.

21:16 Farouk Sultan, the head of presidential electoral commission, said 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.

Sultan also spoke of polling cards marked in the favour of one of them. But when asked about which of the contenders the cards were dedicated to, the electoral commission head simply replied "It is as clear as the sun!" 

Since the sun has set and it is currently night-time in Cairo, Ahram Online reporters were left wondering which candidate Sultan was referring to.

21:10 A judge presiding over a polling station in Fakous, a city in Sharqiya governorate, has been relieved of his duties after it was revealed he attended a press conference held by the Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi about 10 days ago, says Ahram's Arabic-language news website. The report cites the operations room of the Judges' Club.

21:00  As the polling stations close across the country, a member of the ruling military council told Ahram Online that the presidential runoffs have gone smoothly. Major Hamdy Badeen added that the military police and members of the Ministry of the Interior had exposed a number of electoral violations.

He gave the example of Baraka, a village near Beni Seuif, where a crowed was arrested for trying to stop voters casting their ballots.
Badeen also said that in Manshyiet Nasser, eastern Cairo, a man was arrested for asking people to vote for Shafiq and another was detained for driving a van campaining for Morsi and offering voters free rides to a polling stations.
The SCAF spokesman said that military police established emergency hotlines for voters to call if they were concerned for their safety.

20:53 The head of Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission Hatem Bagato has criticised the Muslim Brotherhood's earlier statement that it is waiting for the conclusion of the two-day runoff before it states whether electoral forgery has taken place.

Speaking to Ahram Online, Bagato questioned why the group is insisting on waiting two days. He accused the Islamists of waiting to see if the results are favourable to their candidate before calling foul.

20:51   Just 10 minutes to go until the polling stations close for the first day of the presidential runoffs. 

20:50 Seven members of April 6 Youth Movement who were arrested this morning for hanging posters of slain protesters have been released, fellow member told Ahram Online.

The movement's official page reported that the detained members chanted against the military rule once they were released by the prosecution in Cairo's Nasr City district.

However, the group added, four other April 6 activists Mohamed Ibrahim, Hassan El-Gendy, Mohamed El-Omrany and Abdel-Rahman Mohamed have since been detained in New Cairo district for the same reason.

20:48 Military personnel have been spotted voting in Dar Al-Salam city in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Sohag, according to the Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development (EASDD).

The NGO, which is monitoring the elections, reported Saturday afternoon that at least six people serving in the military were seen voting at one polling station. This is an apparent violation of elections law which deprives those serving in the army and the police of any electoral vote for the length of their service.

According to EASDD, representatives of candidate Mohamed Morsi have issued a complaint about the event. The head of the polling station, however, refused to comment on whether the people voted, only agreeing to confirm that their names were present on voting lists.

Morsi's campaign has made accusations of similar activities in a number of other governotes. It claims the military is allowing personnel from the Central Security Forces to vote, presumably for Ahmed Shafiq.

20:45 Smoking shisha near an Abdeen polling station while preparing for a nearby labour meeting, well-known labour activist Kamal Khalil spoke to Ahram Online's Nada El-Kouny.

He counseled courage despite challenging times.

"We should not be depressed - unfortunately this seems to be the general mood at the moment," he said, adding that he considered what is happening a "smooth military coup" with elections rigged in favour of Shafiq.

Khalil also expressed his concern that the Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party may also be dissolved by legal decree, pointing to recent accusations against them.

But he believes revolutionary forces will finally unite, with figures like Mohamed ElBaradei, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabbahi coming together to build a "shadow government."

"They can form a popular united front so that when the time comes the revolutionary forces can succeed. People will eventually realise that Shafiq will not improve the country's situation," he said.

Nada also spoke to a 29-year old juice-seller who is backing Morsi.

"He does not have the blood of martyrs on his hands and he has a great party behind him that is composed of great people, in terms of their thoughts and teachings."

But Egypt's political vacuum puzzles him. "How can a president be sworn in without a parliament?" he asks.

20:35 A delegate of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Sheikh Zuheir Aabry told Ahram Online reporter Yasmine Fathi that their candidate Morsi does not expect to win more than 12 per cent of the votes in Heliopolis and Nasr City as those are "secular districts."

The FJP delegate added that he only documented one violation at the Abdel-Aziz El-Sayed School polling station, when a woman found her dead father’s name on the registered voters list.

Voter Ahmed Moussa told our reporter that he intends to vote for Morsi "only to kick Shafiq out," while Salafist Omar Karam said he originally wanted eliminated candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh but "will now vote for Morsi, as he supports the revolution and was in prison while Shafiq was prime minister."

20:30 Salafist preacher Safwat Hegazy has been called for questioning by Egypt's prosecutor-general after a complaint was successfully filed against him for allegedly breaching electoral law by demanding voters back the Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi while inside a polling station.

The referral comes after Hegazy had a disagreement with a middle-aged lady at a polling station in 6 October City earlier this afternoon. The lady accused Hegazy of calling constituents to vote for Morsi against the "representative of the old regime who killed the protesters [Ahmed Shafiq]."

Hegazy also filed a tit-for-tat complaint, accusing the woman of verbally assulting him. 

20:15 Moving to Ibrahiymia School in Cairo's Abdeen district, Ahram Online's correspondent, Nada El-Kouny, describes the scene:

"The turnout is low, mostly older people assisted by family members entering the polling stations where they are provided with chairs to sit on.

I met Nabaweya Salam, 70, and her two daughters Fatima and Zeinab Mohamed, 34, who told me that the three of them are voting for Morsi, although they opted for former candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi in the first round. Fatima believes that Morsi is more likely to cooperate with revolutionary figures such as eliminated candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh, unlike former regime figure Shafiq.

Those who work away from the districts where they are registered is also a problem I have encountered – for example Fatima's husband, whose job is in Mahalla, has faced huge problems trying to get home to cast his ballot. 'This is why you find that the majority of voters in the two rounds were women,' Fatma said, adding that after the low turnout last time, authorities should have learnt and done something about it."

20:10 Events have turned bloody at a Dekernes polling station in the Nile Delta Daqhaliya governorate, according to Ahram's Arabic-language news website. Rival Shafiq and Morsi supporters reportedly fought each other with firearms and bladed weapons, resulting in one man sustaining a gunshot wound to his right hand and a woman suffering a deep cut to her head.

20:00 The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) has released a statement summarising violations observed on the first day of the second round presidential elections run-offs. Main violations involved breaking electoral rules on campaigning, group voting, and clashes between candidate supporters.

The report stated that observers witnessed group voting in the governorates of Cairo, Miniya and Damietta in favour of Mohamed Morsi. Candidate supporters also clashed in the Qalyoubeia, North Sinai and Qena governorates.

Candidate supporters of both Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq were seen directing constituents to vote for their candidate at the polling stations. Campaigners for Morsi were also seen campaigning, according to the report.

Several administrative and organisational problems were also observed, reported the EOHR.

Hafez Abu Seada, head of the EOHR and the main coordinator of the Egyptian Federation for Election Observation, stated that group voting is considered a clear violation of the electoral process and warned against its use by any presidential campaign. Abu Seada also stated that clashes between candidate supporters are criminalised under Article 44 of the law on political participation.

Abu Seada also stated that the closure of polling stations in the presence of voters, observed in several governorates, is a clear violation of the regulations instituted by the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC), and violated voter rights, according to local and international electoral standards.

Abu Seada called upon the SPEC to start an immediate investigation and take appropriate measures against such violations.

19:54 We're back on the ground in the working class district Imbaba where supervising Judge Samir Abdel-Latif tells Ahram Online journalist Ekram Ibrahim, that the turnout has been moderate.

"1000 voters showed up already out of 5000 expected to vote across the two days.  No violations have been observed."

Habiba Hosni, 45, standing at the polling station said she had voted for the Brotherhood's Morsi because she believed this was the only hope for the revolution. The ruling military council, she added, is against the Muslim Brotherhood  and it was wrong of them to dissolve parliament. The rest of her family, however, are voting for Shafiq, she said, even though they had voted for Hamdeen Sabbahi in the first round.

19:50  Leaving the terrestrial world momentarily, explore the Twitter-sphere with these choice comments:

Journalist Sarah El-Deeb tweets: "Sameh (not voting): they are gambling with our lives.#EgyPresElex."

Activist Mostafa Hussein tweets: "I voted Morsi :-( I changed my opinion in the last 24 hours after parliament dissolved. I know it's all a farce. It's going to be bad anyway."

Editor Jonathan Guyer tweets" from Downtown Cairo near Tahrir: "Elderly tailor, in his shop off Talat Harb, tells me he fears that if Morsi elected "women won't be able to wear pants."‪#Egypt."

Wall Street Journal reporter Tamer El-Ghobashy tweets: "One Shafiq supporter told me he voted Morsi out of "fear" Brotherhood would "sow chaos" if they lost. ‪#egyelections."

19:43 For a blow-by-blow account of this morning's events across Egypt's polling stations, take a look at part one of our live blog here

19:41 "You can't fight in here - this is the voting room" - hanging with the petit-bourgeois in Nasr City, northeast Cairo, Ahram Online's Eslam Omar reports a healthy turnout at Refa'a El-Tahtawi School but says queues at other stations nearby are much shorter.

He adds: "One voter was involved with a scuffle with the judge after the latter insisted he mark his vote with the pen provided by the polling station. The judge said this was necessary to stop voters using pens or pencils whose writing would fade in time, making the voting paper appear as it was empty."

Outside polling stations, people seem to be getting restless after long waits in the scorching heat, says Eslam. Some of them demanded the military officer guarding the gates let them use the entrances set aside for elderly citizens and those with special needs.

One male voter tried to jump the queue, prompting others to fight with him and force him back in place.

"He apparently decided that was the final straw. He ran off, yelling "Goddamn Morsi and goddamn Shafiq! Goddamn them both!" says Eslam.

19:35 As the sun dips and the heat fades, the lines are still full at Al-Shaimaa School in Cairo's western district of Dokki, says Ahram Online's reporter Ekram Ibrahim.

Many women are entering in groups, dressed in the traditional black and accompanied by their children, says Ekram, who adds that several told Ahram Online they were voting for Morsi because they want their offspring to have work then they grow up.
They seem convinved Morsi will win and show little concern over the looming dissolution of Egypt's parliament.
Many others there, however, are backing Shafiq.
"I voted for the Brotherhood in the parliamentary elections and they've done nothing right since," said 33-year old Sarah Shawqi, whose grandfather and extended family all belong to the Islamist group.
An ambulance arrived bearing a woman who was carried into the polling station and vowed to vote for Shafiq, crying "We have been living in hard times for two years, I've had enough of that." Ekram says the woman was helped inside the station by a Shafiq supporter who assisted her in casting her vote in front of the judge.

19:33  Reporters continue to have a hard time at the polling stations. Egyptian fixer and writer Marwa Nasser is still being held at the general-prosecutor's office, whilst Ahram Online writer Yasmine Fathi was refused entrance to Advanced Technology and Maintenance school polling station, as observers told her they "have orders to allow no reporters inside."

Speaking to Fathi, Mona Hassan, a woman in the niqab (full face veil) outside the Nasr City polling station said: "I'm voting for Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, as he’s the only Islamist candidate left." Hassan originally wanted former Salafist presidential hopeful Hazem Abu-Ismail to reach power.

19:32 The Muslim Brotherhood is keeping a close eye on its rival's electoral violations, publishing via its official website Ikhwan Online details of alleged illegal electioneering by Shafiq's campaign.

In the New Valley governorate, the names of a police officer and a lower-ranking policeman were found on the list of registered voters. Those working in the police force are not allowed to vote.

A name of another low-ranking officer who has been dead for two years was also found on the list, according reports.

Morsi's campaign also reported see a small van in the Delta city of Mansoura transferring officers from the central security forces camp dressed in civilian clothes. They claimed the van was heading to the cities of Aga and Meet Ghamr in Dakhalia governorate.

In addition, they write on their website,  a car was seen driving around with a campaign poster on the bonnet, blaring pro-Shafiq songs in the Al-Amiriya industrial area of greater Cairo.

19:15 In Abbas Al-Akkad school, Cairo's Nasr City district, our reporter Eslam Omar said that the turnout is extremely low in comparison to the previous round. A military soldier, who had monitored the voting process at the same polling station during both rounds, confirmed our reporter’s observation.

Sameeha El-Dissawy, running the station, complained to one of the police officers that they were running out of phosphoric ink, fearing that there would not be enough for the second day of the run-offs.

Some of the voters had tried to avoid the purple dye, showing the judges the inked finger from the first round that had not washed out yet.

A voter told our reporter, that he came all the way from the north coast "to make sure I cast my vote today before you know who [referring the Muslim Brotherhood] jams the stations tomorrow."

19:05 In the western Giza suburb of Dokki, Ahram Online's reporter Ekram Ibrahim says there are substantial queues of female voters outside Abu-Bakr Al-Seddiq polling station, some carrying babies.

She says: "The turnout seems to be low to moderate. Women say they came only as an obligation as none of the contenders really deserves the vote. Several others said they will be choosing the best of the worst. The majority said they would vote for Shafiq. I saw several upper-middle class women greeting each other and saying they would obviously back the ex-prime minister."

Another woman told Ahram Online that although she doesn’t like any of the candidates, she would vote for Morsi because her son read online that Shafiq will ban the reciting of verses from the Quran during school lessons.

 Ekram continues: "Voters seem unenthusiastic. The security guarding the stations also sound bored, complaining they have been sitting at the polling station since 7am Friday and heard the voting period today will be extended an extra hour."

Old ladies encourage each other to vote for Shafiq, giving him a nickname "taba3n" (of course) in Dokki.

Old ladies

19:00 Tensions are rising between candidate fan groups in Upper Egypt's Minya. A fight broke out in the village of Delga between former National Democratic Party (NDP) members-turned-Shafiq supporters and followers of Brotherhood candidate Morsi.

According to an Ahram reporter, security forces intervened to stop the fight.

The NDP was headed by deposed president Hosni Mubarak and was dismantled after the 2011 uprising.

18:50  The Brotherhood are in good spirits it seems, as Morsi campaign media representative Dina Zakaria tells Ahram Online reporter:

"If the votes are not rigged and the elections are democratic, Morsi will win!"

For full details on the Islamist group's comments, including reported electoral violations, read our piece here

18:44 The second fatality of the day occured in Cairo suburb of Shubra, when Fathi Abdallah Fouad, 22, died after being electrocuted by a water cooler while drinking. The young voter was waiting to cast his ballot at one of the area's polling stations, according to reports. 

Meanwhile down South in the oasis town of Fayoum,  a young girl has been hospitalised after swallowing some of the phosphoric ink used to mark voters' fingers at polling stations.
The girl, who was accompanying her mother, has since been transferred to Fayoum public hospital.

18:41 At the nearly deserted Saqr Quraish School in Nasr City, northeast Cairo, a  member of the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights (EOHR) tells Ahram Online's Yasmine Fathi that few violations have been spotted within Cairo.  He says this stands in stark contrast to what he called "excessive violations" reported in other governorates.

The head of desolate polling station, Ehab Mahran, tells our reporter that 1,300 votes have been cast so far from the total 5,682 registered.

18:39 Well-known Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas has come in for abuse by female Shafiq supporters in the ex-prime minister's stomping ground of Tagammo Al-Khamis, northern Cairo. 

Abbas' assailants accused him of conspiring against Egypt and helping those seemingly ominipresent "foreign elements".

18:33 Speaking from the surprisingly high-tech control room set up by the governor of Port Said to monitor voting stations by camera, Ahram correspondent Khedr Khodeir, said the run-off is going smoothly amid medium turnout. 

"Queues at polling stations allocated for women in Port Said city were considerably longer than those for their male counterparts," said Khodeir, before describing a few violations he saw by those not affiliated with campaigns.

"A taxi driver displaying a Shafiq poster on his windshield was arrested by police while another minor scuffle between a voter and a judge led to the voter being escorted to the police station," Khodeir said. "Other than that, all is calm here."

18:27 The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) has submitted a complaint to the electoral commission after its monitors found pre-marked ballots in the Delta governorates of El-Gharbiya and Kafr El-Sheikh.

The NCHR said that its monitors unwrapped batchs of ballots they believes fresh from the printers only to find them marked with Morsi's name.

Similar incidents were reported earlier in Cairo and Sharqiya. In the latter governorate, a judge had to stop the voting process in order to file a complaint at one of the polling stations.

18:27  Voting is as constant as the tide in the coastal city of Alexandria, according to Ahmed Sabry, Ahram's correspondent in Egypt's second city.

"The turnout all-in-all is good, albeit less than the presidential election's first round," he tells us. The spectre of fraud  is looming over proceedings though, with the campaigners of both Ahmed Shafiq and Mohamed Morsi claiming the other is trying to sway voters.

"Each side is accusing the other of breaking the electoral silence and mobilising voters," he says, citing statements from both campaign HQs in Alexandria.

18:17 Back in Heliopolis, Al-Orouba School polling station is deserted.

An army officer requesting anonymity told Ahram Online reporter Yasmine Fathi: "The turnout is higher than the first round but maybe some aren't showing up as their candidates didn’t make it to the runoffs."

"There were several fights over who could vote first, but aside from that things have been calm," the judge manning the station said.

18:15  The best democracy money can buy? A report from the Al-Shehab Rights Center claims Shafiq campaigners at polling stations in four districts in the coastal city of Alexandria have been trying to swap cash for votes.

The centre says its monitors who witnessed the incidents will be filing an official complaint soon.

18:10 An Egyptian fixer working for Finnish media was arrested in mid-afternoon at a Sayeda Zeinab polling station after a Shafiq supporter accused her of trying to influence her vote.

Marwa Nasser told Ahram Online she was interviewing emerging voters at a secondary school in the area, only to be accused of trying to sway a female voter who had already cast her ballot for Mubarak's former prime minister.

“She said I was trying to make her vote Morsi. That is a complete lie,” Marwa told Ahram Online over the phone, before her mobile was switched off. She is understood to remain in custody.

She says she was held by police while the polling station judge wrote a report of her supposed offence without hearing her side of the story. She has since been transferred to the General Prosecutor’s office and has been told she may spend the night there.

18:00 We return to Cairo's rather smart district of Heliopolis, often seen as a liberal secular stronghold, Almaza School polling station is witnessing a rare wave of support for Brotherhood candidate Morsi.

Abla Kareem told Ahram Online’s reporter Yasmine Fathi that she is optimistic about the Islamist group's Nahda (renaissance) electoral program, adding that the "only project Shafiq has is to bring back the old regime."

Naila Fathi, also a diehard Morsi supporter since the first round, says "I don’t care if the elections are being conducted before the constitution; the country is unstable and we need a president."

Egyptian presidential runoffs are in full swing and turnout, according to the Egyptian Coalition for Elections Monitoring, is higher than the start of the first round "despite the high temperatures." 

The two presidential contenders have already voted – with Mubarak-era premier Ahmed Shafiq spotted sneaking into a New Cairo polling station via a backdoor to avoid being "shoe-'d" away by angry protesters. The Brotherhood's Morsi, however made a more dignified entrance, queuing in the sweltering heat with two Herculean bodyguards.

The Shafiq campaign was clearly feeling the pressure: it implored the public, via its Twitter account to not wait and "go and vote and take other people with you" - presumably in support of the former regime figure. 

Voters were banned from using their own writing implements, after the electoral commission received information of a shipment of pens arriving in Egypt supposedly armed with ink that disappears within three hours. 50,000 pens were provided instead to prevent foreigner having a "hand" in the elections results. Electoral violations appear to have been committed by supporters of both presidential camps, including incidences of vote buying, illegal flyering and manipulation of the electoral register.

By the afternoon, there were reports that seven members of the April 6 Youth Movement has been arrested at a Nasr City polling station and an Egyptian fixer/journalist working with Finnish media, Marwa Nasser, was also detained in Sayeda Zeinab district.

For coverage of the first half of the day, click here

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