CAIRO: The first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections saw a 62 percent voter turnout, the judicial committee supervising the elections said Friday
Councilor Abdel-Moez Ibrahim, head of the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), said the turnout was “unprecedented,” adding that it was the “most in Egypt’s history as far back as the pharaohs, even with the forgery of the former regime.”
Out of 13,614,525 eligible voters in the nine governorates of the first round, 8,449,115 voted on Nov. 28-29.
During the brief press conference held to announce the results of the first round, Ibrahim highlighted the main complaints, stressing that the violations reported do not void the elections, while promising to avert them in the following two rounds.
The main violations including campaigning outside polling stations, long queues and lack of facilities for people with disabilities, the delay in the arrival of judges and ballots in “limited cases,” the delivery of unstamped ballots, minor incidents of violence and improper places allocated for sorting and counting the votes.
The latter led to halting the counting process by the responsible judge in the Shoubra and Sahel constituency, Ibrahim said. The space was expanded and the process resumed but the resulting chaos led to invalidating 90 ballot boxes, 15 of which were missing. Over 2,600 boxes were left intact.
Throughout the nine governorates, 517,000 votes were invalid.
Ibrahim commended the police and military for securing the elections, calling them “heroes.” He also thanked the judges for the long hours they put in, especially the female prosecutors and judicial staff that took part. Over 10,100 judges participated in supervising the elections.
“Egyptians are the winners in these elections,” he said.
Only four candidates secured their seats in this round: Mostafa Bakry and Ramadan Salem in Maadi, Akram El-Shaer in Port Said and Amr Hamzawy in Heliopolis. The rest will have to go through a run-off on Dec. 5-6. The winner has to get 50 percent plus of the votes.
After reading out the names of the candidates in the individual first past the post race, Ibrahim declined to announce the numbers votes of the lists. Two-thirds of the parliament seat are reserved to closed party lists.
The information wasn’t immediately available at the press conference or on the commission’s website.
“I’m tired… I’m out of gas,” Ibrahim said shortly before leaving the press conference.
Preliminary results announced in each constituency over the past few days, showed Islamists in the lead. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party was followed by the Salafi Al-Nour Party and the liberal Egyptian Bloc.
Yet, with many seats still unsecured, the results are not final. In several constituencies, FJP candidates will be in a run-off with candidates of the ultraconservative Al-Nour.
Announcement of the first round of parliamentary elections results was delayed twice this week, mainly due to the delay in counting the votes cast by Egyptians living abroad.
However, the number of expat votes was not expected to significantly affect the preliminary results in each constituency.
Results of the first round of parliamentary elections, which were scheduled to be announced on Thursday afternoon, were postponed to Friday because the vote count has not been completed in some constituencies, an official told Reuters. Ballots of Egyptians abroad arrived Thursday, according to state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.
More than 355,000 Egyptians abroad registered to vote, the majority of which reside in Gulf countries. The highest number of registered voters was in Saudi Arabia, with more than 120,000, followed by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
“It is hard to predict where the votes of Egyptians abroad will go as they have never been measured, whether in previous elections or opinion surveys,” said Mazen Hassan, professor of electoral systems at Cairo University.
“However, we can predict according to the country of residence. For example, expats in the United States and Europe are likely to vote for liberals, while those in the Gulf would probably vote for the more conservative parties and candidates,” he explained.
According to Hassan, around 120,000 expats voted in the first round, a figure that is unlikely to be decisive.
Politicians and observers expect the majority of the votes to go to Islamist parties, which are already leading the race according to preliminary results.
“The majority of Egyptians abroad reside in the Gulf countries and are very much affected by the Wahabi ideology there, which will make them vote for the more conservative or Islamist parties,” said Margaret Azer, member of Al-Wafd higher committee.
Ahmed Abou Baraka, leader in the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), concurred. “Reports indicate that the majority of votes went to the Freedom and Justice Party,” he told Daily News Egypt.
Abou Baraka said that the party’s success in approaching people, whether locally or internationally, is why people voted for it.
After much campaigning abroad and within Egypt, expats were only allowed to vote through a court verdict. Over the past few months, many politicians and observers speculated that the expat vote would be a game-changer.
Yet instead of the millions of Egyptians estimated to be living abroad, only 355,000 registered.
The low turnout is due to the lack of media campaigns announcing the registration, said Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judicial and Legal Profession.
Other analysts noted the short window of time — less than a month — between the court verdict and the actual elections. Registration also required the relatively new computerized ID number, which reportedly wasn’t immediately available with all expats. –Additional reporting by Sarah El-Sirgany and Amira Salah-Ahmed.