Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Below average turnout

Ahmed Morsy sees the reasons behind the short lines in the parliamentary elections

Al-Ahram Weekly

Though it is a long-awaited parliament, the number of voters who showed up during the two-day second phase of the elections was below average.

State television showed footage of small numbers of voters casting their ballots while some polling stations were nearly empty in several parts of the country. In an attempt to boost the number of voters after the low turnout on the first day of the first stage of voting, the government announced that all state employees would have a half-day off on days of elections. Therefore, the turnout was slightly higher on the second stage.

Until Al-Ahram Weekly went to print, official figures were not announced. Observers and initial indicators say the turnout was insignificantly higher than the first stage of the elections which was 26 per cent.

According to sources in the Higher Elections Committee (HEC) quoted by the daily Al-Shorouk on Tuesday, by the end of the second day of voting, turnout fluctuated in the voting sub-committees from between 28 and 40 per cent. Official results of the Cairo constituency of Nasr City, one of the biggest constituencies in Cairo, and which was announced early on Tuesday by head of the general commission of the constituency judge Moataz Khafagi, showed a low number of voters.

“Out of 497,800 total eligible votes in 199 voting sub-committees in Nasr City, voters stood at 100,051, including 3,312 invalid votes and 96,739 valid ballots,” Khafagi said in a press conference. According to Khafagi’s numbers, the turnout rate in Nasr City was about 20 per cent.

Regarding the results of overseas voting, voter turnout increased by 22 per cent in the second stage of the elections, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Monday.

The ministry added that a total of 37,168 voters cast their ballots in the second stage, compared to 30,531 in the first round.

The second stage of the ballot, held on Sunday and Monday, included the remaining 13 governorates — Cairo, Qalioubiya, Daqahliya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai. A total of 55,606,578 Egyptians were eligible to vote in the elections -- 27,402,353 were eligible to vote during the first stage while 28,204,225 were eligible in the second. 

A total of 282 parliamentary seats are up for grabs in the second stage: 222 seats for independent candidates and 60 seats allocated to party-based lists.

“Though the final results and turnout rates have not been officially released, the turnout rate this year is remarkably low,” political analyst Hassan Nafaa told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Since the 25 January Revolution in 2011, such low ratios of voting have not been witnessed,” Nafaa added.

The low turnout was attributed by politicians and political experts to the deteriorating economic situation, voter fatigue and the dissatisfaction of youth.

Al-Ahram Weekly interviewed a number of young people, some of who voted while others abstained.

Mustafa Abdel-Hak, 32, believes that boycotting the elections was not the right attitude. “We have no other option than to have hope. I believe that boycotting is unhelpful and that’s why I participated.” Abdel-Hak said he voted for former vice president of the Military Judicial Commission Taha Sayed Taha, military expert Hamdi Bekhiet, and military intelligence officer Tamer Al-Shahawi. Abdel-Hak said he took less than three minutes in one of Nasr City’s constituencies to vote.

Eslam Refaat, 31, also preferred to vote. “It is our national duty towards the country,” Refaat said.

But Ahmed Salah, 32, said he saw no reason to participate. “The parliament is going to be simply decorations to improve the country’s image internationally while domestically it will not have any effective role,” Salah said. “Almost all the candidates are backers of the president and one of their major targets is to boost his powers,” Salah said.

Mina Nagi, 26, also shunned the elections. “I don’t know the candidates in my constituency and so I refused to give my vote to any of them. Given that it’s the candidates’ role to inform me of their electoral programmes, I had no intention of making any effort to collect information about them,” Mina, who lives in the New Cairo district, said.

Mustafa Imam, 25, did not vote because he believed his vote was worthless. “The sovereign entities will do what they believe should be done. Despite the millions of Egyptians who participated in all the elections that came after the 25 January Revolution, they dissolved the 2012 parliament, Shura Council and the constitution, all in three years,” Imam said.

“I lost trust and became frustrated by the political scene,” he added.

On Facebook and Twitter, many people, mostly youths, were busy making fun of the empty polling stations, similar to what they did in the first stage of the elections last month, using the hashtags “#instead_of_voting” and “#no_one_went”.

Egypt has been without a parliament since mid-2012, when the country’s top court invalidated the Islamist-led legislature, saying it had been elected on faulty grounds. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has held legislative powers since his election in 2014 due to the absence of an elected parliament.

Trying to explain the problem, Nafaa said: “There is a high level of frustration in the current political scene, which might be one reason behind the low turnout. Voter apathy reveals a state of popular discontent in Egypt. Moreover, youth shunned the elections because they lost trust in the political scene.”

The reluctance of voters, Nafaa said, is considered a message of protest from the people to the state. “People do not consider it a real election and this is normal in light of a political scene merely dominated by the president,” he added.

The run-offs of the second stage are due to be held on 1 and 2 December.

The parliamentary elections mark the third and final phase of the country’s roadmap to democracy after the removal of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. A new constitution was drawn up and presidential elections were held last year.

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