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Egypt Runoffs Blighted by Lower Turnout, Reported Violations

[A man casts his vote during the first day of the parliamentary run-off elections at a polling station in Cairo. Photo credit: Reuters.] [A man casts his vote during the first day of the parliamentary run-off elections at a polling station in Cairo. Photo credit: Reuters.]

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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