On May 23, the Egyptian presidential elections were launched amid high enthusiasm. Many Egyptians were saying, “God will put in power those who are fit [to rule].” Long voting queues blocked some main streets, turning them into the sites of vigorous debates regarding politics and the five strongest candidates: Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Mohammed Morsi, Hamdeen Sabahi, Amr Moussa, and Ahmed Shafiq. The topic of the debates did not prevent some voters from loudly expressing their rejection of the “remnant candidates” [from the Mubarak regime] or holding them responsible for the Egyptian blood that was spilt during Mubarak’s reign.
When El-Khabar visited one of Cairo’s polling stations, we saw three queues: one for the youth, one for the elderly, and one for women. Priority was given to the elderly. Students with computers were facilitating the voting process by giving each voter their voting booth number and looking up their name in the electoral rolls. There was a heavy security presence throughout the streets of Cairo, with eight soldiers and two officers from the army and six policeman at the entrance of each polling station. The number of private security personnel was raised at government buildings, the Saudi Embassy in Cairo and other areas. The army also deployed military aircraft to monitor the security situation during the electoral process. Inside the polling stations, after each voter deposited their ballots, a staff member marked their hands with a special ink to prevent them from voting again. Most polling stations included representatives of the presidential candidates and civil society organizations, which monitored the process, and every ballot box was monitored by a judge. The voting started at 8 am and ended at 8 pm.
At the political level, some prominent figures were present at the polling stations. Among them was Parliament Speaker Dr. Saad Katatni, who voted after standing in line for a full hour. All presidential candidates also stood in line out of respect for the voters.
The Higher Elections Commission referred candidates Mohamed Morsi, Ahmed Shafiq and Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh to the prosecutor’s office to be investigated for breaking the “election silence” and for violating the commission’s rules.
Rule Violations by the Candidates
Most electoral violations involved campaigning in front of polling stations, but this happened fewer times than during the parliamentary elections. The presidential candidates filed their complaints before the Higher Elections Commission. Most notably, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Morsi, held an electoral meeting after the voting in the Sharkia governorate in northern Egypt, as did Shafiq, who made statements to various satellite channels. Violations that were recorded by human rights organizations and the April 6 Movement included securing free transportation for the voters, which was committed by Moussa and Morsi. In addition, the army and the police burned some questionable campaign leaflets, for Moussa, Aboul Fotouh and Morsi, that were distributed to the voters.
One Aboul Fotouh campaign coordinator, Iman Abdul-Qader, accused Shafiq of terrorizing the voters and physically clashing with the other candidates’ campaign personnel. He also accused Shafiq of buying votes for 50 Egyptian pounds each (roughly $10). Some electoral staffers even directed the voters to vote for the staffer’s preferred candidate. Abdul-Qader said to El-Khabar, “The violations by Ahmed Shafiq’s campaign remind us of the deposed president’s era and the behavior of the disbanded National Democratic Party. It is an attempt by the old regime’s ‘remnants’ to abort the revolution and reverse the gains it has made.”
For its part, Aboul Fotouh’s campaign held the Higher Elections Commission fully responsible for those flagrant violations by refusing to apply the political disqualification law. His campaign demanded an end to the violations in order for this historically democratic experience in Egypt to succeed. Movie director Khaled Youssef, one of Hamdeen Sabahi’s campaign officials, expressed his disappointment to El-Khabar regarding the violations that were committed by the campaigns of Shafiq and Morsi. Specifically, Youssef mentioned their use of money and religious slogans to gain votes, and their staffers directing voters to cast the ballot for their respective candidates.
In a related context, the Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development detected numerous campaign violations. Among them were the lack of electoral rolls at some polling stations and the closure of some polling stations due to poor organization. This led to long queues in front of those stations.
A source from the Association told El-Khabar that the uncontrolled election campaigning came as a direct result of the non-interference by the Higher Presidential Elections Committee and its lack of response to the early campaigning issues.
Cairo on the Eve of the Elections
The day before the elections [May 22], hours before the vote, Cairo seemed different. Egyptians stayed up till dawn and campaign activities were limited to the banners that were glued on cars. The candidates’ supporters were flashing victory signs for cars that bore the image of their candidate. Many Egyptians described this day as if it were a preparation for a festival. Most people had already decided who they were going to vote for. The joy was visible on their faces as they contemplated their next president. El-Khabar visited the headquarters of Hamdeen Sabahi’s campaign and we were surprised to find out that the “headquarters” were no other than the office of movie director Khaled Youssef, located in the famous Mohandisin neighborhood in downtown Cairo. It is in a huge building and its walls were covered with pictures of film director Youssef Chahine, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Souad Hosni, Hind Rustom and Khalid Youssef. Many of Hamdeen’s supporters were present and the streets leading to the headquarters were packed with cars that bore pictures of Hamdeen Sabahi. Among those present were movie director Khaled Youssef and producer Mohammad al-Adl, the famous political activist and member of the Egyptian Front for the Defense of Freedom of Creativity. There were also several journalists, writers and political activists who spend so much of their time in Khaled Youssef’s office that they even sleep there. They were awaiting the campaign delegates’ orders, which reached them at 2 am.
Hours before the voting started, El-Khabar took a tour of Moussa’s electoral campaign headquarters, located in the Dokki neighborhood at the center of the capital. The campaign had set up a violations monitoring center where information was being gathered from delegates that were present at the polling stations. It was interesting that Moussa, Morsi, Aboul Fotouh, and Shafiq had delegates at all polling stations, which was possible due to their popularity and financial strength relative to the other candidates.
Sixty International Organizations and Four Algerian Observers Monitor the Egyptian Elections
Sixty international organizations came to monitor the Egyptian presidential elections, in addition to former US President Jimmy Carter. He visited several polling stations to observe the status of the electoral process. Ninety-three embassies are also observing the elections, and the Arab League assigned 44 observers, including four Algerians. The observers are monitoring how the elections are being administered, the electoral campaigns and the vote-counting. They will also meet with officials and representatives of political parties and civil society organizations. They are adhering to a specific code of conduct for electoral observers and to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, which was adopted by the United Nations and ratified by 11 electoral monitoring organizations.
Pictures of Moussa and Shafiq Sprayed with Blood
The revolution’s youth is maintaining their campaign against the presidential candidacies of the Mubarak regime’s “remnants.” After they failed to disqualify Ahmed Shafiq, and after tearing up pictures of Shafiq and Moussa, revolutionaries sprayed their the candidates’ surviving images with red paint to depict their responsibility for shedding Egyptian blood. Others raised banners showing the pictures of Moussa and Shafiq that read, “No to electing the ‘remnants.’” When the ballots were being cast in the fifth district west of Cairo, a number of young people raised their shoes in the face of Ahmad Shafiq to express their strong rejection of his candidacy.
Scenes from the Elections
-- For technical reasons, the issuance of ID cards for journalists and foreign correspondents was delayed until the last hours before the voting began. There were two categories of ID cards: the first was white, for non-resident foreign correspondents. They are only allowed to cover from outside the polling stations and in the streets. The second was yellow, and they were given to foreign correspondents who reside in Egypt. They are allowed to cover from both inside and outside the polling stations. A press center for foreign journalists was established in the center of Cairo.
-- Most movie stars and artists support Hamdeen Sabahi. Some of them, especially the blacklisted artists who stood against the revolution, support Shafiq. Other artists such as Amr Waked are boycotting the elections altogether.
-- Mohammed Abu Trika, the star player of Al-Ahly [football] club, decided to vote for Aboul Fotouh after previously being undecided between Fotouh and Mohammad Morsi. The Al-Ahly and Zamalek fans are split between Aboul Fotouh and Sabahi.
-- Moussa and Shafiq arrived at the same polling station, an odd coincidence given that there were 21,000 of them. However, the two candidates did not vote at the same time.
-- Sabahi said that he would cast his ballot at 2 pm, but he was half an hour late. This prompted some to say to him, “The president is already showing up late.” Sabahi stood one and a half hours in the queue before voting, and promised not to let the martyrs’ blood go to waste.
-- Presidential candidate Hisham Bastawisi was unlucky on the first day of the vote. An administrative error prevented all of his representatives from being present at the polling stations to monitor the voting process.
-- For the first time in his life, the former minister of culture Farouk Hosni, from Mubarak’s era, stood in a long queue to cast his ballot.
-- The Algerian community in Egypt, comprised of roughly 3,000 people, participated in the elections because many of them hold Egyptian nationality.
-- Yesterday afternoon, the Higher Elections Commission held a press conference and announced that three candidates had violated electoral campaign rules and were being referred to the prosecutor’s office. The candidates were Shafiq, Aboul Fotouh and Morsi.
-- Lawyer Sarwat Kherbawi, who split from the Muslim Brotherhood, said that the voting indicators in the provinces far from Cairo show that Aboul Fotouh is leading, followed by Morsi.
-- Saudi human rights activists created an account on Twitter called “The people want to stand in an election queue.” Their demands for a presidential election in Saudi Arabia were joined by activists in Bahrain and other Gulf states. The account had a quote from Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki that said, “The Egyptians are deciding the fate of the Arab Nation with their own hands.”
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