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Scepticism over voter turnout - Daily News Egypt

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Scepticism over voter turnout

Despite official accounts of moderate turnout, a picture emerges of lower than reported participation.

Although officially over, the presidential elections are still causing a stir. Among the most hotly debated issues is the turn-out rate. Candidates’ campaigns claim that the turn-out rate has reached over 51 percent, while head of the electoral committee, Farouk Sultan, pointed out that no indication shows that the turn-out rate reached 42.02 percent. After the announcement of the candidates who qualified for the run-off round of elections the idea of not taking part in the elections increased in popularity.

The movement calling for boycotting the elections gained momentum on the ground, with several prominent activists joining the election rejection movement. So, the speculations about a low turn-out rate began early on in the process.

Yet, according to the official campaigns of the presidential candidates, an estimate of 51 percent of those eligible to vote participated in the presidential elections. Such high turn-out rates produced a lot of skepticism on the ground, especially when contrasted with a first round turn-out rate of 43 percent.

“The numbers raise scepticism, to say the least,” said Omar Kamel, one of the more outspoken activists participating in the boycott movement. “From what we’ve witnessed during the parliamentary elections, as well as the first round of presidential elections, voters mostly prefer to go to the polling stations during the first day of elections.”

Yet, as Kamel pointed out, the Lawyers’ Syndicate stated that the turn-out rate on the first day was barely 15 percent of eligible voters.

Moreover, Kamel retold the story of overhearing army tanks roaming the streets of Zamalek, where Kamel lives, encouraging people to go to the stations and cast their votes. “I was also told by someone I know in a Gharbeya polling station, that out of the 5000 eligible to vote, only 200 showed up on the first day” Kamel added.

Another sceptic is Rami Ghanem, a civil rights lawyer and member of the political office of the Justice and Democracy National Front.“Contacts from Suez were telling me that the turn-out rate on the first day barely reached 4 percent ” Ghanem told the DNE.

Mostafa Hegazy observed the electoral process in the first as well as the run-off rounds of elections on behalf of Shayfeenkom, a popular movement overseeing the integrity and legitimacy of the electoral process in Egypt, and said that the announced turn-out rates definitely raise question marks. Hegazy said the sheets holding eligible voters’ names in the polling stations, where voters should sign to verify that they participated in the elections, were predominantly empty. Let alone the pictures of polling-stations themselves, where the low density of voters did not match the announced turn-out rates.

“Considering that the so-far announced turn-out rate is relatively equal to that of the participation in the 2011 parliamentary elections” Hegazy said, “the crowds at the polling station didn’t match those at the parliamentary elections by any means.”

“Put into consideration that the number of polling stations in the parliamentary elections was larger than that in the presidential elections” Kamel further illustrated. He said polling stations should have been more crowded during this run-off round, not the other way around. “Did the voters suddenly turn invisible inside the polling stations?” Kamel rhetorically asked.

All our sources stressed, there is no tangible proof that the announced turn-out rate was falsified or doctored, only indicators. “Shayfeenkom isn’t concerned with the turn-out rate, either,” Hegazy stressed.

Civil rights activist Ghanem expected appeals filed by both candidates regarding ballot-counting, which might produce some surprises when elections numbers are officially announced Thursday.

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