Sameh Ashour claims to have won his fourth non-consecutive term as president of the Lawyers Syndicate, a claim mired in controversy as the final results of Sunday’s nationwide elections have yet to be officially announced.
As the ballots were still being tallied on Sunday night, the incumbent president and his campaigners had already claimed victory and were celebrating Ashour’s new term in office.
Ashour’s supporters claimed he beat his closest contender, Islamist lawyer Montasser al-Zayyat, by around 10,000 votes. But Zayyat’s supporters allege the elections were marred by forgery and foul play, the privately owned ONA news agency reported.
On Sunday and Monday, the official website of the Lawyers Syndicate indicated that Ashour was in the lead nationwide, particularly in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Daqahlia and Aswan.
Ashour served as syndicate president from 2001 to 2008, and again from 2011 to 2015.
Turnout in the elections was reportedly average or mediocre. In Alexandria, turnout was reportedly 25 percent, while in Ismailia it was as high as 60 percent.
Elections for syndicate president and 56 council members were held in branch syndicates across Egypt’s 27 governorates, and an estimated 296,000 general assembly members were eligible to vote.
A total of 330 candidates ran in the elections, including 26 candidates competing for the president’s seat.
Final results were initially scheduled to be announced Sunday night or Monday, but officials said they would be delayed and announced over the next couple days.
Polling stations were scheduled to open from 9 am to 5 pm on Sunday, but the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported a number of violations, including polling stations opening late and the absence of indelible ink from several voting booths.
But a statement on the Lawyers Syndicate website quoted Ashour as saying as saying that the elections were free and fair and conducted under comprehensive judicial supervision, while polling stations were equipped with both indelible ink and transparent glass ballot boxes.
In addition to Ashour, the three front runners syndicate president were Jama’a al-Islamiya lawyer Montasser al-Zayyat and former council members Said Abdel Khaleq and Ibrahim Elias.
Presidential candidate Nabih al-Wahsh claimed Ashour was “exploiting the resources and headquarters of the general syndicate, as well as the branch syndicates” to promote his campaign.
The banned Muslim Brotherhood group, which has maintained a strong influence in the syndicate since the 1980s, didn’t field any candidates in this year’s elections. However, the Brotherhood did not entirely boycott the process.
Brotherhood lawyer Mohamed Tosson told the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that the group decided to let its members decide individually who they want to represent them.
But Ashour claimed that syndicate members had “thwarted a Brotherhood attempt to infiltrate and occupy the syndicate” by trying to vote Zayyat into office. In an interview with the privately owned CBC satellite channel on Sunday, he argued that this was the Brotherhood’s first attempted infiltration since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted from office in July 2013.
Photos of Ashour covered almost all the pages of the Lawyers Syndicate’s official website on Monday, though none of his competitors’ photos were posted during Sunday’s elections.
Ashour told CBC anchor Lamis al-Hadidi that he would strive to keep Brotherhood representatives and their allies out of power in the syndicate, and that they should be kept out of all other professional associations as well.
Established in 1912, the Lawyers Syndicate is one of Egypt’s oldest professional associations, and also among the country’s most politically active associations.