Early reports of a low turnout were wide of the mark, writes Reem Leila
Early figures suggest 25,307,313 of the 50,524,993 Egyptians on the electoral roll cast a valid ballot in the second round of the presidential poll. Of these 13,025,968 -- or 52.74 per cent -- opted for the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi, and 12,280,597 -- or 47.26 per cent -- for Ahmed Shafik, appointed by Hosni Mubarak as prime minister in the dying days of the former regime. Mursi led the poll in 18 governorates, Shafik in nine.
This week, Egyptians of varying age groups, beliefs, occupations and social levels cast their ballots to choose the country's new president. Voters who cast their ballots in the run-offs did not really know in advance who the winner will be, so close was the race. Voter turnout during the first round was 47 per cent, whereas newspapers reported that the run-off did not exceed 30 per cent. Head of the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) Farouk Sultan announced that voter turnout had hit 35 per cent by midday on the second day of voting, increasing to 45 per cent by the end of the day. On both days of the poll the number of people appearing at ballot stations increased as the day wore on, with voters obviously keen to avoid the stifling heat of the day.
Adel Abdel-Ghaffar, who teaches at Cairo University's Faculty of Mass Communication, says the turnout was higher than expected given the amount of frustration that had been expressed over the choice of candidates that made it to the second round. While official figures are due to be announced on 21 June after the PEC has examined appeals, Abdel-Ghaffar points out that the turnout is similar to developed countries.
Abdel-Ghaffar pointed out that the percentage of voter participation in the run-offs was close to that of developed countries. "None of the eligible voters is to be blamed for not voting. It is a free and now democratic country," he added.
Official voting results are slated to be announced on 21 June after the PEC examines appeals.
Turnout on the second day was generally weaker than the first. Short queues formed inside polling stations. The government gave employees both days of elections off to augment voter turnout. According to reporters, turnout seemed to be higher in rural areas whereas in urban areas was weaker. "Lower turnout in urban areas was due to the long weekend when many preferred to travel to coastal cities. It was a mistake to schedule election days on Saturday and Sunday. It would have been much better if the run-offs were in the middle of the week in order to give voters a better chance to go and cast their ballots," argued Abdel-Ghaffar. According to reports, turnout appears to have been highest in rural areas.
"The lower turnout in urban areas was due to the long weekend," argues Abdel-Ghaffar. "Many city dwellers opted to travel to the coast. It was a mistake to schedule election days on Saturday and Sunday. It would have been much better if the run-offs had been held mid-week."
Cairo University professor of political science Hassan Nafaa does not believe it was the lure of the seaside that prevented people from voting.
"Many of those who did not vote stayed away from the polling stations because they could not bring themselves to support either of the two candidates. One was a symbol of the old regime, the other a symbol of fanaticism and dishonesty," says Nafaa. "The run-off elections took place in a difficult political atmosphere, and in the absence of a politician emerging whom people believe is capable of rescuing the country from the current crisis."
"In the absence of a valid constitution candidates were competing without a clear delineation of the powers they would enjoy. Neither did they see fit to publish coherent manifestos. There were plenty of promises during the campaign, along the lines of restoring security within three months and restoring Egypt's leading regional role. Unfortunately, both candidates failed to inform the public how they would implement their promises."