Egyptians officially began casting their votes in the parliamentary elections in Egypt on Sunday in the 14 governorates of the first electoral phase: Giza, Alexandria, Matruh, Beheira, Aswan, Luxor, Minya, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Red Sea, New Valley, Fayoum and Beni Suef.
The first five hours of voting in the Dokki area in Giza witnessed almost deserted polling stations since they opened at 9 am. At 1 pm, an employee of the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) supervising the polling station in a school in Dokki, said that barely a hundred citizens have cast their vote out of a database of 2,000 voters in that classroom. “I called my colleagues elsewhere, and they reported the same situation,” he added.
SEC’s official spokesperson told state-run news agency MENA that participation turnout was higher in Alexandria, Giza and Assiut in comparison to other cities. He added that women engaged the process more than men and that the majority age group was above 50. He described participation turnout as “medium and below medium”.
Judges and employees handling the electoral process inside polling stations categorised participation in this parliamentary elections as “weak”, expecting it to increase after normal working hours in the afternoon.
Outside many schools, posters of candidates were wide spread on all walls. Yet many voters said it was difficult to learn about all the candidates. Daily News Egypt met a microbus in Dokki and its owners and riders claimed to have worked for the controversial journalist and candidate Abdel Reheem Ali. An elderly man carrying a card with Ali’s picture was asking for directions to a certain polling station, where he was registered.
The government and the SEC made efforts in terms of security and assistance to voters. Most polling stations saw more military presence than civil police, with an average of six to eight security personnel per location. Military helicopters were seen as well.
However, the diversity and numbers of security forces were significant in one polling station where “important state officials were expected to arrive”. In general, the treatment of media personnel and journalists went smoothly. The army also had female media personnel covering elections and interviewing voters.
For its part, the SEC issued many guidelines for voters as well as details on the candidates, which were posted in the polling stations. Still, people faced challenges in selecting candidates and the main criteria for choosing were reputation and popularity.