Live blog: Egypt Presidential Elections 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Egyptians go to the polls for the first time to democratically elect a new president. Voting is to continue for two days, and Al-Akhbar English in collaboration with Egypt Independent will bring you all the latest updates as they unfold.
Here is an update on the day's events:
- Millions of Egyptians have been voting in meaningful presidential elections for the first time in their lives.
- There has been generally a low turnout, particularly in areas such as Suez, though forecasters have said it could be higher tomorrow.
- The main presidential candidates have all voted, with the polls suggesting a close race between former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh and former Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafik.
- The two candidates with the most votes will go into next month's run-off, unless one candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote outright.
- There have been isolated claims of abuse, but no widespread corruption allegations as yet.
- Three of the candidates, including Abul-Fotouh, have been referred to prosecutors over claims they campaigned after the official cut-off point.
Former dictator Hosni Mubarak was technically eligible to vote as he awaits trial, but didn't register in time.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 20:07
Candidate and former Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafik has spent a large percentage of the past week denying reports about his health, and was forced to do so again today.
Al-Akhbar correspondent in Cairo Besan Kassab saw him deny reports he is unwell, and said she believed it was probably just a slur against him.
"He had a press conference to declare he is not sick because it was said he was. He wanted to make a press conference to say he was not, because its not true," she said.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 19:55
The Egyptian Independent is reporting that a polling station in the district of Daqahliyah, north-east of Cairo, has suspended voting after discovering 35 ballots marked in advance for the Muslim Brotherhood candidates Mohamed Mursi.
The judge filed a report on the incident and faxed it to the Presidential Elections Commission to rule on.
This is the most serious allegation of voting irregularities that has yet been reported.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 18:15
The divide between former Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa has been at the center of this election.
Our elections correspondent Sarah El-Sirgany has written an interesting analysis of the battle between these two men who have been the front runners for much of the campaign.
Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh... was seen as courting the ultraconservative vote after the Salafi al-Nour Party announced its support for him.
“Abul-Fotouh is the only candidate who has something to lose. He’s losing undecided voters. He’s losing the people who think he’s too Islamist,” said Mirette F. Mabrouk, a nonresident fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “You can’t be all things to all people.”
“Abul-Fotouh isn’t a liberal with Islamist tendencies. He’s an Islamist who understands how liberal minds work,” she added.
Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League and Egypt’s foreign minister for 10 years prior, capitalized on that. Moussa, who portrayed himself as more appealing to the liberal, mainstream Egyptians, picked on Abul-Fotouh’s more conservative statements in a televised debate on May 10.
Moussa repeatedly said he rejected the use of religion in politics. In a jab at Abul-Fotouh and Mohammed Mursi, the Brotherhood candidate, a Moussa supporter said in a press conference this week that he rejected the way candidates affiliate themselves to religion “as if others are not [Muslims].”
“Talking from quantity and popularity calculations, liberals aren't such a big constituency. They are more prestigious than anything else,” explained Khalil al-Anani, a scholar of Middle Eastern Politics at the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University. In Abul-Fotouh’s case for example, the Salafi vote, especially their networks in rural areas, would make up for the lost liberals.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 18:04
The star of former Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafik has risen in recent weeks, as he has sought to portray himself as the alternative to the Islamist candidates Mursi and Abul-Fotouh.
He has particularly picked up support from Egypt's large Christian community, and below are some interviews of Coptic Christians supporting him.
In Shubra, a working-class Cairo neighborhood home to many Copts, voting lines were long, and the worry and tension felt by many Christians was palpable.
"I don't want the Islamists. If they come to power and I oppose them, they will say I am criticising their religion and who knows what they'll do to me? We can't talk to them," said 57-year-old Sanaa Rateb after casting her ballot.
Rateb railed against those, including the Muslim Brotherhood, who object to a Christian or a woman standing as president.
"It's a mistake. Where is the principle of citizenship in all this? I have the right, as a woman or as a Copt, to stand for the presidency if I want," she said.
Nassim Ghaly, a young man with a cross tattooed on his wrist in the distinctive manner of Egyptian Christians, interjected: "God protect us if the Islamists come to power and they control the parliament and the presidency at the same time."
Like all the Copts questioned on Wednesday, Rateb and Ghaly voted for Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak, whose campaign posters were the most visible in Shubra.
"Shafik is a respectable man who can restore the country," said Mary, who declined to give her family name.
Al-Arabiya also have a good video summarizing which, among other things, summarized why Christians are voting for Shafik.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 17:36
Couple of interesting developments. Firstly Richard Spencer, The Telegraph's Middle East correspondent, has tweeted that Ahmed Shafik, Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh and Mohammed Mursi have all been referred to prosecutors for campaigning after the limit.
Sultan: three candidates referred to prosecutors, Ahmed Shafiq, Aboul Fotouh, Mohammed Morsi
— Richard Spencer (@RichardJSpencer) May 23, 2012
Secondly the Wall Street Journal's Matt McBradley claims that Amr Moussa's campaign has released a press statement putting Mursi in the lead.
Moussa's campaign releases early press release saying Morsi is leading.
— Matt Bradley (@MattMcBradley) May 23, 2012
This would be a shock as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate has consistently polled fourth, and the press release could be an attempt by Moussa to get those wavering out to vote.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 17:12
It seems that either the turnout will be low or a lot of people will be voting tomorrow, if the reports we have been receiving are accurate.
Al-Akhbar elections correspondent Sarah El-Sigany has returned to the town of Erbein, over a year after she was there for the referendum on changing the constitution. She said the difference between the two was stark.
"The areas are empty, we haven't met a lot of people. There are no queues, if you stand there for five minutes maybe one or two people will go in."
"I was here for the referendum in March 2011 and there were long queues, people standing around, the area was buzzing."
"Now the markets and the souqs are busy, but not the areas around the polling station."
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 16:54
On the issue of campaigning after the official cut off point two days ago (See 3.22pm and 2.16pm) Al-Jazeera producer Evan Chill has tweeted that Amr Moussa's team are upset by the press conferences held by Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi and former prime minister Ahmed Shafik.
I asked Moussa's press guy about violations of electoral rules, he said two obvious ones: Morsi and Shafiq held press conferences.— Evan Hill (@evanchill) May 23, 2012
It is not yet clear whether there will be appeals over the supposed infringements, it could well depend on whether Moussa feels aggrieved when the results are announced.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 16:13
The former Google executive Wael Ghonim, who was very influential in last year's uprising including setting up the Facebook page "We are all Khaled Said," has posted a picture of himself voting for Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh.
I just voted for AbolFotoh :) twitter.com/Ghonim/status/…
— Wael Ghonim (@Ghonim) May 23, 2012
Elsewhere on the lighter side of the elections, @sandmonkey has noticed that older people are trying to cut queues in polling booths!
Older people are completely abusing the line, using grouchinessas their tool. Its awesome and insane. :)
— Mahmoud Salem (@Sandmonkey) May 23, 2012
— Egyptocracy (@Egyptocracy) May 23, 2012
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 15:53
More worrying news of potential concern.
A campaign leader for Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh has been beaten up after complaining that the supposedly neutral military were backing former Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, Al-Masry Al-Youm is reporting.
The article alleges that the campaigner noticed one of the members of the armed forces directing voters, especially the elderly, to vote for Shafik.
He brought it up and the armed forces led him to an isolated room and beat him up, it claims.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 15:40
The security forces in Cairo arrested there people while they were distributing ads in favor of the candidate, Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh, according toto the Al-Ahram newspaper.
The incident occurred at 8 in the morning when the security forces found three people distributing ads to voters and urging them to vote for Abul-Fotouh, despite rules banning such practice.
Earlier today (2.16pm) our correspondent in Alexandria told us some of the ways people have been avoiding the official ban on campaigning by the candidates.
Elsewhere we have just received the sad news that a 30-year-old navy captain died in a traffic accident on Wednesday morning while heading to the city of Rasheed to protect polling stations.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 15:22
One of the key issues in this election is over the candidates' attitudes towards Israel.
With both Amr Moussa, famed for his anti-Israeli rhetoric while in the Mubarak governments, and Abul-Fotouh known to be hostile to the Jewish state, there is hope among Palestinian groups that this election could see the beginning of the end of the 1979 treaty signed between Israel and Egypt.
Here is Ian Black, Middle East editor of The Guardian with his take on how these elections could affect the relationship with Israel.
Abul-Fotouh is clearly hostile to Israel but that does not mean he is likely to do anything as drastic as tearing up the 1979 peace treaty. He has however called for it to be re-negotiated especially over the issue of permitted troop levels in Sinai. But that position is shared more or less by all candidates including Amr Moussa. The Palestinian issue has enormous resonance in Egypt and Israel's policies, viewed from here, do not appear to be moving in a positive direction on that score.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 14:50
Farouk Sultan, Chairman of Egypt's supreme court, has just appeared on Al Masriya praising the elections and calling on all candidates to respect the results.
"This is a chance for our country to start fresh, and we should all participate," he said.
"To the candidates I say, you should accept the result whatever it is because it is up to the people to decide."
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 14:23
Abdulrahman Youssef, Al-Akhbar correspondent in Alexandria, has just told us how candidates are getting around the ban on campaigning through “whispers.”
Candidates were officially meant to stop campaigning two days ago, but he says representatives are still getting their message across as people head to the polls.
“The candidates are not campaigning for themselves directly. Instead, women standing at a distance are advising people to vote for one candidate over the other. There's a sort of “electoral whispering.”
Youssef also points out that “fewer people are voting compared to the parliamentary elections. I can't see any queues from where I am.”
However our elections correspondent Sarah El-Sigany in Suez points out at Twitter that tomorrow, which is a public holiday, is likely to see the lion's share of the voting.
Police told me polling stations were spread out on more schools, but they expect turnout to be higher tomorrow, a day off. #suez
— Sarah El Sirgany (@Ssirgany) May 23, 2012
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 14:16
First bit of bad news for what have so far been very peaceful elections, off the AFP wire.
An Egyptian policeman was shot dead on Wednesday when he was caught up in a gunfight between supporters of two presidential candidates outside a polling station in Cairo, security officials told AFP.
Another person was injured in the same fight, which erupted as Egyptians were voting to choose a successor to president Hosni Mubarak, ousted last year in a popular uprising.
The police officer was killed by a shot to the chest, while the second person, a civilian, was hit in the leg, security officials said, adding the incident occurred in the northeastern Cairo district of Rod al-Farag.
It was not immediately clear which candidates those involved in the altercation were backing, but the gunfight underscored security concerns as millions went to the polls to choose Mubarak's successor.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 13:56
For Egyptians meaningful presidential elections that are a new thing and there are some great images and stories coming out of the different reasons people are voting.
Those below courtesy of Reuters and AFP.
Saad Abd Raboh, an education ministry employee in his mid-fifties voting in Alexandria: "Our vote will make Egypt's voice in the Arab world ring loud and clear... For 30 years, Egypt's voice was muted."
Amal Khedr, an accountant in Cairo wearing a veil who said she would vote for Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister: "He has political experience. He is the best of the worst."
Khedr's friend, Hala al-Kady, jokingly blocked her ears and said she was voting for Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh.
Sahar Shehata, 28, voting for Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi in Alexandria: "It is important to vote for Egypt, your future and your children's future. But what is more important is that Egyptians accept the result ... and we don't descend in chaos and violence if some segments of society don't like the new president."
Housewife Samah, 48, a mother of two in Cairo who said she was voting for Mursi: " My husband told me to vote for Mursi. He pressured me a little, to be frank, always talking about him, but I am not very well versed in politics so I trust him."
Adel Abdel-Moneim, 60, real estate manager in Cairo: "This country has 17 million Christians. How can they implement Islamic Sharia? Amr Moussa is well respected. He is number one."
Ahmed, standing in the same Cairo voting queue as presidential candidate Amr Moussa: "Honestly, I like the idea of standing in line with the president. I'm voting for Moussa because we need stability and a return to the standards we had before."
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 13:54
News on the man whose overthrow made this election possible.
Hosni Mubarak, taken down last February in a popular uprising, is currently awaiting trial but still technically should be able to vote as he has not been convicted yet.
The Secretary General of the Presidential Elections Commission Hatem Bagato has confirmed that Mubarak and his son, Gamal, have the right to vote in the presidential election.
However neither Hosni nor Gamal had applied in time, so they forfeited their democratic rights...
Who do you think he would have gone for?
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 13:39
The Egypt Independent are reporting that polling stations in Mansoura, northern Egypt, are crowded, with some voters getting frustrated by the queues.
Many voters in the region are still unsure who to vote for, a common feature of this election where the number of undecideds has stayed high.
There are also reports of minor irregularities. In the Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood of Cairo, Mohy Eddin Abdel Aziz Gad, 71, says the Presidential Elections Commission’s website gave him the wrong voter ID number and polling station information, which has delayed his ability to vote.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 13:27
Trying to predict the outcome of these elections has been nearly impossible, with different polls showing different results.
However the latest latest Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies survey, in conjunction with the Egpyt Independent, has put former Arab League chief Amr Moussa clear of his rivals.
Moussa still tops the chart with the support of 40.8 percent of poll participants, followed by former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, who climbed to 19.9 percent.
Former Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh fell back to third on 17.8 percent while Muslim Brotherhood nominee Mohammed Mursi was remained fourth with 9.4 percent.
A result like that would put Moussa and Shafik into a run-off, while Abul-Fotouh and Mursi would be disqualified. It would be a pretty significant shock to have no Islamists in the final run-off, particularly considering their dominance over parliament, but this is just one poll.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 13:17
Speaking of Mursi, a photo has just been posted on Twitter by @hany2m of the man himself being kissed on the head by a voter as he waits to cast his ballot.
A supporter kissing Dr. Morsi's head while he stands in line to cast his vote in Sharqeya - Screencap from Masr25 chan. yfrog.com/ob4lmpufj
— Hany Rasmy (@hany2m) May 23, 2012
The Muslim Brotherhood candidate has struggled to gain momentum in the election and is not tipped to win the first round. He will be hoping that he can sneak second place and take it to a run-off next month.
Elsewhere the other candidates have been voting. Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh has cast his vote at Ibn Al-Nafees Preparatory School in Nasr City, Reuters reports.
Former Arab League chief Amr Moussa arrived at the polling station at Fatma Anan School in the Fifth Settlement, New Cairo, at 8:30 am, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm. He waited in line for an hour and a half to cast the ballot. Moussa said he would accept whatever outcome the election brings, describing the polls as an important lesson in democracy.
“Egyptians should have good judgment in selecting the person who would shape Egypt’s future over the next period,” Moussa said. “We are up to the challenge.”
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 13:05
Besan Kassab, Al-Akhbar correspondent in Cairo, is in the Heliopolis district of the Egyptian capital, an upper-middle class area that was traditionally loyal to President Mubarak.
She has been to the election hall where Mubarak used to cast his vote in elections he unsurprisingly always won
"I went to the place where Mubarak used to vote and now it is closed for the first time. It is the first time it has not been used as a place for voting."
She says that people in the area are not too keen to reveal who they are voting for but they are unlikely to back Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh or Muslim Brotherhood nominee Mohammed Mursi.
"Most of the people don't like to say what they will do but the area doesn't tend to vote for Islamists. It is a higher middle-class place and it didn't vote for them in the parliamentary elections."
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 13:00
Welcome to this live blog on the Egyptian presidential elections in conjunction with the Egypt Independent. We will be trying to keep you up to date with everything via our correspondents across the country.
The turnout so far seems to be relatively low, with nothing like the scenes we saw at the parliamentary elections when there were long queues outside polling stations. There have been no queues in Giza and Heliopolis, while the polling stations in Suez are largely empty.
Al-Akhbar elections correspondent in Suez Sarah El-Sirgany says it could be that people are planning to spread out their votes over the two days.
“In the parliamentary elections the judges and committees often turned up late, but today most of the committees were already open by 8am, which helped voter traffic. Also people don't want to stand in line so they are pacing themselves over two days,” she said.
Sirgany, who herself voted for the first time in presidential elections this morning, said there was a slight anti-climax when she nominated her candidate.
“It took me ten minutes. It didn't feel as much of a fanfare as I expected it to be, its very procedural. I tried to take the moment in but it was nothing more than a tick!”
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 12:41