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First day of runoffs marked by reports of electoral violations as SEC revises first-round voter turnout downwards
The first of two days of runoff elections following the first round of Egypt’s post-Mubarak parliamentary polls were marked on Monday by reports of electoral violations by campaigners from almost all political parties. This time around, voters did not form long queues in front of polling stations, with turnout considerably less than it had been for last week’s contests.
Cairo’s low-income Dar El-Salam district was the first to witness thugs plying their trade since polling began on 28 November, when a group of unknown assailants broke the windows of a car belonging to a judge tasked with observing the elections. They also stole documents related to Monday’s runoff vote.
No political party or group has thus far been accused of instigating the incident.
In Luxor, polling was temporarily suspended due to two gunfights that erupted for reasons unrelated to the polling.
Members of the El-Holail and El-Taraki families exchanged fire in Esna’s village of El-Zonika, south of Luxor, reportedly due to a quarrel between the two rival clans. Three people were injured and six polling stations were temporarily shut until security forces were able to contain the situation.
According to a judge tasked with supervising the electoral process, another gunfight broke out in central Luxor on Monday between security forces and infamous outlaw Yasser El-Hamboli and his gang. “No polling stations were closed in Luxor due to the gunfights, but many locals were dissuaded from casting ballots,” the judge, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Ahram Online.
Meanwhile, elections observers dispatched by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) reported the presence of thugs in Cairo’s Azbakia district.
On the bright side, however, no judges were locked up inside polling stations as had happened in last week’s first round of voting. Poor organisation was cited as the chief reason why some judges – along with security personnel – were locked up in polling stations by frustrated voters last week.
Egypt’s Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) tried to avoid the problems witnessed in the first round by, for instance, providing polling stations with sufficient ballots on Sunday. The first round had been hindered to some extent by a shortage of ballots at a number of polling stations.
On Monday, the SEC stressed that all polling stations would open their doors at 8:00am as scheduled.
What’s more, Major-General Ismail Etman, a member of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), issued a warning against anyone found campaigning during the vote. Any campaigner found promoting a political party during the balloting, Etman said, would be immediately detained.
In the vote’s first round, pamphleteering had been one of the most commonly cited violations.
Rival political parties had also traded accusations of bribery and forgery during the first round. The same violations, allegedly committed by the FJP and Salafist Nour Party – especially pamphleteering – were also reported during the runoffs.
Mostafa El-Naggar, candidate for the liberal Adl Party, formally accused his competitor – the Nour Party’s Mohamed Yosri – of rigging the polls by stuffing ballot boxes. Both men are vying for seats in Cairo’s Nasr City district.
In general, voter turnout appeared much less in the first day of runoffs than for last week’s first round. In Cairo’s populous Shubra district, for example, some polling stations were closed as a result of the low turnout, according to Judge Abdel Rahman Taie.
At a midday news conference on Monday, the SEC stated that only 52 per cent of registered voters had cast ballots in the first round of voting instead of the 62 per cent that had been previously announced.
Contrary to some media reports, meanwhile, runoff elections in the Cairo districts of El-Sahel and Shubra and in Alexandria’s Maharam Bek were not cancelled. Responding to these inaccurate media reports, the FJP released a statement slamming satellite television stations “owned by businessmen” for transmitting what it described as “false information” about the parliamentary polling.
First-round runoffs will wrap up on Tuesday, while the second round of voting is slated for 14 and 15 December. Second-round runoff elections will be held on 21 and 22 December.
[Developed in Partnership with Ahram Online.]
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