Update: Election commission rejects candidates’ objections to vote extension

The High Elections Commission refused the objections of both candidates to their decision to extend voting for a third day in Egypt’s presidential elections, privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported.

A source in the commission told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the candidates objections are “a game of politics,” adding that it’s not sensible for the commission to consult with candidates before making such decisions.

The source also wondered why “none of them objected when voting abroad was extended.”

Voting stations closed at 9 pm on Tuesday, instead of 10 pm, to mark the end of the second day of the electoral process. 

Sisi’s campaign released a statement on Tuesday evening reporting that Mohamed Bahaa al-Deen, the legal advisor of the former field marshal, filed a formal objection with the High Elections Commission regarding their decision to extend the voting process for a third day.

The statement didn’t justify the objection, but some Sisi supporters expressed their frustration at the campaign’s move, saying they “were planning to vote for Sisi but didn’t have the time to do so.” Others supported the decision to “avoid the other candidate’s supporters’ claims that extending the voting process is an attempt to rig the elections in Sisi’s favor.”

Mada Masr tried to contact media spokespersons of the Sisi campaign but none were available to comment on the reasons behind the objection.

Meanwhile, Sabbahi’s campaign, which also filed an official objection with the High Elections Commission, issued an official statement saying that the sudden decision “seems to be due to obvious pressure from multiple parties to allow time for implementing a scenario which no one was able to force on Egyptians over the first and second days.”

The statement added that, despite their intentions to preserve Egyptians’ right to vote, they refuse the hype that has been going around since yesterday, trying to manipulate peoples wills and force a point that Egyptians have proven wrong over the last two days, in what might be a reference to the attack and anger expressed by some media personnel and talk show hosts over the noticeably low voter turnout.

Sabbahi’s campaign believes that there are no valid reasons for the commission’s decision, other than an attempt to interfere in the numbers of voters, “especially in light of the obvious increase in the size of electoral irregularities, the constant banning of our representatives from performing their jobs, as well as arresting some of them, which has largely affected our ability to monitor the electoral process and verify its integrity.”

Sabbahi’s campaign also demanded, regardless of the commission’s decision, that votes collected on the first and second day be counted separately and the results announced.   

The High Elections Commission decided on Tuesday afternoon to extend the voting process for a third day, in what many consider an attempt to combat the drop in turnout at polling stations during the first two days of Egypt’s presidential election.

The commission attributed its decision to the severe heat wave over the last couple of days and an observation that voter turnout increases during the evening, although “voting ends at 9 pm and it’s difficult to further extend it to avoid exhausting judges.”

The commission also said that it has taken into consideration the demands of people who want to vote outside their designated constituencies, to allow them the time to travel to cast their votes.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kareem al-Saqqa, member of presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s campaign, asked journalists to report various demands to extend voting time until Wednesday.

Saqqa told independently owned Al-Masry Al-Youm that newspapers should spread statements released by the leftist Tagammu Party, liberal Masryeen Ahrar party, and Wafd party to extend the voting process until Wednesday and close polling stations at midnight on Tuesday.

As polling stations continue to witness a significant drop in the number of voters during the last hours of the second day of the 2014 presidential elections, Mada Masr reporters met with Judge Mohamed al-Gohary, head of the Giza Criminal Court, who’s supervising a polling station in Cairo’s Imbaba neighbourhood.

Gohary said that his station had received 3100 voters so far, out of the 6000 registered. “These numbers are not high enough, a 70 percent participation rate would be enough for me though. People have to participate in the process to make sure their voices are heard.”

He’s convinced that Sisi is going to win the race against leftist politician Hamdeen Sabbahi, but didn’t specify a margin. Mada Masr’s reporters noticed an absence of Sabbahi supporters at polling station in Imbaba on Tuesday.

In spite of early indicators, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said in a televised interview that he expects a rise in turnout later in the afternoon, citing high temperature as the reason for low numbers.

At a polling station in Dokki’s Tahrir Street, the supervising judge said that more people were coming to vote, especially younger age groups, confirmed by Mada Masr reporters, who saw the lines.

So far, 2200 out of the 4826 registered have voted at the aforementioned station, 1600 of who cast their votes on Monday. Ali Hassan Ali, a man in his twenties said that he didn’t vote on Monday because “his parents were ill.” He voted for Sisi, although he’s not entirely convinced by him. However, he thinks Sisi is the better option out of the two. Ali voted for Islamist politician and founder of the Strong Egypt Party, Abdel Moneim Abouel Fottouh, during the first round of the 2012 presidential elections and boycotted the second round between Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq.

Another voter at the same station was Ali Hasaneen, a young man also in his twenties. Hasaneen refused to specify whom he voted for, but he said that he was the only one voting out of his social circle. “I met a friend on my way to the station and tried to convince him to come vote with me but he refused,” he added.

In the upscale Cairene Zamalek neighborhood, the streets were largely empty, including the popular cafes that are usually buzzing with customers. Some attributed the quietness to the fact that most of the private companies didn’t keep up with the government’s sudden decision to announce Tuesday as a day off for state employees to encourage them to vote. One or two people showed up occasionally at polling stations in Zamalek, and the situation was no different at another upscale neighborhood, Maadi, where voters were no where to be seen.

In another attempt to push people to vote, City Stars, Cairo’s largest shopping mall, decided to close early. At around 2 pm, people were rushing around getting their shopping at the crowded mall. At 3.30 pm, security guards started ushering shoppers out in order to shut down the mall at 4 pm.

Despite rumors that Metro access was free to encourage people to go to their polling stations, Mada Masr’s reporters’s visited two different stations on Tuesday that proved otherwise. Clerks confirmed that the rumors were not true and that people still have to pay to use the Metro. 

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