For many Egyptian voters, finally an election that matters
Today's parliamentary elections in Egypt saw a high turnout. Some voters confessed they didn't really know the candidates, but were excited to participate nonetheless.
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Election monitors reported significant violations, though it is not yet clear how systematic they may have been. Sherif Azer, deputy head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, says a coalition of observers had reported violations that included vote buying, group voting, preventing monitors from entering polling stations, campaigning inside polling stations, and a small number of violent clashes.Skip to next paragraph
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He also says that 90 percent of polling stations opened late; some did not have enough ballots, and others lacked ink to mark voters' fingers and prevent repeat voting.
The head of the High Election Commission (also referred to as the Supreme Election Commission), which is overseeing the vote, said that some judges were late because of heavy traffic and that some ballots were sent to the wrong districts.
Mr. Azer says the violations are worrying, but fewer than in previous years. He also says the monitors reported high voter turnout in all but two of the nine governorates voting in the first round.
Les Campbell, Middle East and North Africa director for the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, says the high turnout and enthusiasm are encouraging, but that it is too early to draw conclusions.
“Night has just fallen, there's still lots of potential for problems for things to go wrong, and there's still potential for confusion,” he says amid touring Cairo polling stations. “I still wonder how in the world they're going to secure all of these polling places with the ballot boxes overnight. That's a big question mark.”
Islamists set to perform well
Monday’s vote, which will extend through Tuesday, is the first in a three-round process to elect a new People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament. The parliament’s main responsibility will be to choose a committee to rewrite Egypt’s Constitution.
But many voters seem more interested in fixing the problems that plague Egypt after decades of corrupt and authoritarian government, including poor education, high prices, and unemployment. The parliament will have limited scope to address such problems, however, so long as the military council retains its near-total hold on power.
One group that looked set to gain from the vote was the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best-organized Islamist movement. Volunteers from the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, vastly outnumbered those from other parties on the ground today.
They set up computers outside many polls to help voters look up their assigned voting locations and, along with many other parties, passed out flyers, despite election rules that forbade such campaigning.