Visibly lower turnout in runoff
BY AMIRA SALAH-AHMED
Cairo: The early part of day one of the runoff in Egypt’s first post-Hosni Mubarak presidential election saw a palpably lower turnout compared to the first round.
As the sun beat down on protesters, the Presidential Election Committee extended voting by one hour and said polling stations will close at 9 pm. The expectation is that more voters will be encouraged to queue up after sunset.
The runoff pits Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafik against the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Mohamed Morsi, creating a sense of despondence amongst voters, many of whom are choosing between the lesser of two evils.
Some planned to boycott out of election fatigue or as a form of protest against a process they see as flawed, while others chose to nullify their ballots in objection to both candidates and what they see as continuing military rule.
In Cairo, Dokki polling stations saw a low turnout, as did the quiet suburb of Maadi, where queues were nearly non-existent, a marked change from the parliamentary elections.
Sabah Ibrahim, 41-year-old Maadi resident, voted for Morsi, “not because I’m 100 percent sure that he’s the perfect candidate for Egypt.” For her and many other voters, it was mostly a vote against the other candidate.
Ibrahim and two other women, all veiled, said they voted for the Salafi Al-Nour Party in the parliamentary elections, and then Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh in round one of the presidential election.
All three want a moderate candidate with an Islamist background and pinned their hopes on Abol Fotoh. When he failed to make it to round two, they felt they had to choose Morsi to bring down Shafik.
Angham Ahmed said the Brotherhood were part of the revolution, “they did make a difference. When they joined, it made a difference.”
Both said that the now dissolved parliament was ineffective, but justified that by claiming the PA did not have full authority to make changes.
As for the opposing candidate, Ibrahim likened him to someone who “infiltrates your home,” referring metaphorically to the revolutionary house or camp.
They believe that given the chance, “without interference from the army or the police,” Morsi can meet the demands of the revolution.
A 30-year-old cab driver listening to the Quranic radio station, turned the volume down to explain why he was voting for Shafik. “The Muslim Brotherhood are power hungry. They failed us in parliament and they didn’t side with the revolution. They will bring us back hundreds of years.”
He believes that Shafik will be able to restore security and bring back tourism, the absence of which has hurt his livelihood in the past year and a half.
Ismail Omar has lived in Maadi for 15 years, walked out of an empty polling station with his friend and engineer Samir Mahdy. Both voted Morsi.
“It was a very difficult choice,” Omar said, “but we can’t go back to the old regime. If there’s no interference in the ballot boxes, Morsi has a chance to win.”
They too didn’t vote out of conviction that this is the best candidate, but also believed that the religious rhetoric of the FJP has been overplayed by the media.
But still, Mahdy replied, “Would you prefer someone who’s role model is Mubarak or someone who’s role model is Prophet Mohamed?”
In Menufiya, the hometown of Mubarak, where Shafik swept the polls in round one of election, his campaigners accused MB-affiliated observers of influencing and intimidating voters inside polling stations.
Meanwhile, Morsi supporters kept a low profile, outnumbered by Shafik supporters.
In a press conference, representatives of Morsi’s campaign said, “Egyptians were provoked by the verdicts of the past two days and will vote to protect the revolution,” referring to constitutional court verdicts dissolving parliament and allowing Shafik to run.
While they said they could not confirm vote rigging on a large scale at this stage, “there are reported violations.”
“The only guarantee is for people to vote,” they added, citing reports of police personnel who are not allowed to vote by law, of voting at several stations.
Addressing rumors of pens with fading ink at voting stations, they said the PEC no longer allows pens into voting subcommittees. –The Egypt Monocle