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Electoral Violations Mar Egypt's Presidential Runoff

[Egyptians went to vote in the second round of presidential elections on June 16. Image originally posted to Flickr by Johnathan Rashad.] [Egyptians went to vote in the second round of presidential elections on June 16. Image originally posted to Flickr by Johnathan Rashad.]

The first day of Egypt's presidential runoff has seen substantive reports of electoral violations on both sides of the divisive race.

The supporters of Mubarak-era premier Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi have both found themselves accused of trying to garner votes in underhanded ways.

Reported practices range from outright vote-buying and herding citizens to polling stations, to violating bans on promoting candidates on polling day and arranging votes for military and police personnel.

Less than an hour after polling stations opened on Saturday, the first reports of violations were already emerging.

The Shehab Centre for Human Rights claimed to have witnessed the use of "rotating papers" by Shafiq supporters in Alexandria. 

Rotating papers is a means of vote-buying, wherein voters entering a polling station are handed ballots by one side pre-marked to elect their favoured candidate. The voter uses the marked paper in the ballot, and on exiting hands an empty ballot taken from within the station to the vote-rigger, presenting it as proof for payment.

The practice was used extensively in Mubarak-era legislative elections by the then ruling National Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, a source at the Supreme Council for Presidential Elections (SPEC) told Ahram's Arabic portal that judges supervising polling stations in two districts—Mosqi in Cairo, and Sharqiya province — had discovered voting cards marked for Mursi when they opened envelopes containing what they thought were fresh ballots.

Ahmad Sarhan, spokesperson for Shafiq's campaign, said that voting cards coming from the state press are appearing at voting stations already marked.

"There is obvious infiltration of the press," Sarhan told Ahram Online.

Reports multiplied as Saturday wore on.

In Suez, Shafiq campaign coordinator Mohamed El-Bukhari filed a report against a judge at a polling station, accusing him of leaving his post for prayers and delegating the task of distributing voting cards to an official from Mursi's campaign.

"He didn't close the station in his absence. That gave Mursi's delegate a chance to mark the voting cards," he told Ahram's Arabic language news website, calling the judge's behavior "suspicious."

The Muslim Brotherhood made their share of accusations too.

The organisation's website, Ikhwan Online, cited reports by the Mursi campaign of vote-buying in the Giza district of Mit Okba, where the price for a vote for Shafiq was alleged to be set at LE50.

The report claimed that three women were seen registering the names of people who promised to vote for Shafiq near Yousef El-Sebaii school, and handing out payment after they exited the polling station.

Another report by a Mursi delegate, also reported by Ikhwan Online, claimed two police guards were seen voting at a polling station in the Upper Egypt governorate of Assiut. 

The report gave the names of the guards as Mefrih Wahba Saad Wahba and Awad Samir Awad.

Dina Zakariya, media spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told Ahram Online that violations by Shafiq supporters were being reported nationwide.

She said these included breaking silence on campaigning, intimidating Mursi supporters and even resorting to violence. Zakariya claimed "Shafiq-related" thugs attacked Brotherhood supporters in the city of Mansoura, capital of Dakaliya province.

Violence as a whole, however, was relatively minor. The head of the One World monitoring centre, Maged Sorour, told Ahram Online that while clashes did take place, none led to serious injuries or fatalities.

The center, which has published four reports so far, says both campaigns systematically broke the last minute ban on campaigning and advertisied their respective candidates close to polling stations.

Their Arabic-language findings can be found here

[Developed in partnership with Ahram Online.]

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