Saturday, May 31, 2014

Horrified by low turnout, authorities extend election for 3rd day & threaten fines for boycotting

Egypt election extended by a day after low turnout


Polling in Egypt's presidential election has been extended for a third day after low turnout.

Polls were due to close at 22:00 (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday, but have now been extended to Wednesday, the Egyptian election commission said.

The scale of turnout is seen as key to legitimising the winner. Former military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is the clear frontrunner.

He is standing against only one other candidate, left-winger Hamdeen Sabahi.

It is the second presidential election since the 2011 revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak.
The previous elected President, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, was deposed by Mr Sisi in July 2012 following massive opposition protests.

Voting was extended for an extra hour on Tuesday, which was also declared a public holiday, in an effort to boost turnout.


Analysis, by Kevin Connolly, BBC News, Cairo
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, along with the interim government, the official media and Egypt's powerful army have been acting for months as though this election was a formality with victory for him inevitable. 

They may have overdone it to an extent which has alienated some Egyptians - and left even those who like Mr Sisi not seeing much point in voting.

At many polling stations soldiers on security duty have outnumbered voters and others have seen no voters at all for hours.

Extending voting into a third day might look a little desperate - but it's tantamount to an official admission that turnout has been worryingly low for the authorities.

A win for Mr Sisi on a very low turnout would damage his authority as he takes office…..It would be particularly embarrassing for him to secure fewer than 13 million votes. 

That was the number recorded by Mohammed Morsi the elected Islamist President whose removal from office was led by Mr Sisi last year when he was still serving in the army.


Election officials also said they would enforce a fine of over 500 Egyptian pounds (£42/ $72) for non-voting.

Egypt's election commission said the extra day of voting was to "allow citizens who could not cast their ballots because of residence restrictions" to participate in the elections.

An election official added that part of the reason for the low turnout was the unusually hot weather on Tuesday.

Observers from Mr Sabahi's campaign estimated that turnout on Monday was 10-15% and even less on Tuesday.
The election is being held amid tight security, but voting on Monday passed off without major incidents.

Mr Sisi appeals to Egyptians who crave stability after years of political upheaval, and anything other than an easy win for him would be a source of astonishment, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly.

Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, banned as a "terrorist group", called for a boycott of the polls.

More than 1,400 people have been killed and 16,000 detained since authorities cracked down on the movement in July.

Mr Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders are now on trial on a raft of charges, including murder.

*Photo of polling station courtesy of Getty Images

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