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The second phase of Egypt's People's Assembly elections kicked off on Wednesday with more than 3000 candidates competing for 180 seats.
Nineteen million eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots in nine governorates including Giza, Monufiya, Sharqiya, Ismailia, Suez, Beni Suef, Beheira, Sohag and Aswan.
Polling stations saw high turnout.
In this round, 2271 candidates are competing for 60 single-winner seats and 1116 contenders are running for the 120 seats that will be allocated to party lists proportionally.
Islamists swept the first round of voting that began last month, with the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis garnering nearly 40 percent and 25 percent of the votes, respectively.
The high elections commission, headed by Abdel Moez Ibrahim, has postponed voting for list-based seats in the second constituencies of both Beheira and Sohag, as well as the first constituency in Monufiya, until 21 and 22 December, which coincides with the runoffs for single-winner seats in the same governorates. The decision was made following three court rulings that combined some of the party lists in those constituencies.
9:00 pm: Polling stations close, and the military begins guarding the ballots.
8:20 pm: Most polling stations still have voters, and those stations will remain open until 9 pm, Monufiya governor Ashraf Helal told the Egypt Independent.
There are media reports that ninety-five percent of polling stations opened on time amid a turnout rate of 60 percent .
Five stations are reported to have opened late because some candidates' representatives didn't have passes. In one station in Quesna, the judge arrived 45 minutes late.
8:10 pm: In Gerga, Sohag, voters continue to flock to polling stations to cast their votes early evening.
Dahi al-Saqr, a voter in Gerga, says: "We’ve been disenfranchised for a long time here in Upper Egypt and that's why we want to vote for those who will make our lives better."
Another voter by the name of Khalafallah Abdel Gawad, a fruit seller, says: "I don't know much about the candidates and if I knew more about their political programs, I’d make better choices. But now I just prefer to vote for the more religious candidates."
6:59 pm: Five people are injured in clashes involving firearms. The fighting takes place between supporters of the liberal Egyptian Bloc and Ghad Parties in the Tal al-Zukah Village in Tama Township, Sohag.
The clashes erupt in the village’s elementary school. Security forces cordon off the area to separate combatants and use armored vehicles as reinforcement.
Military officers use loudspeakers to call on the residents to cease fire.
5:02 pm: Electoral competition grows intense between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis in Sharqiya governorate. Supporters of both parties trade accusations and tear down each other's campaign banners.
Polling stations at the commercial education school in Minya al-Qamh department, located in the southern constituency, see fiery brawls between the supporters of the Salafi Nour Party and the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
The dispute broke out when Salafis tore down fliers belonging to the FJP and told voters that the FJP list represents Christian candidates. Enraged FJP backers denied the accusation.
5:00 pm: Female voters hold Giza judge hostage after accusing him of rigging. A group of female voters at the Shagaret al-Dur School polling station in Giza hold Counselor Abdel Fattah al-Gazzar, a supervisor in charge of electoral committees 195 and 160 at the school, accusing him of rigging ballots in favor of an independent candidate. The voters bring in members of the police and the armed forces to show them the evidence, and demand that the judge in charge of the electoral committee be summoned.
The voters hold Gazzar hostage for nearly an hour until the general committee chairman arrives and closes the electoral committee. Gazzar and committee staff are questioned.
The voters say they found a number of ballots pre-marked in favor of an independent candidate.
The voters tell Egyptian Independent that fraud has taken place in favor of the independent candidate. They go on to demand the nullification of results.
4:05 pm: Freedom and Justice Party representatives Mahmoud Marei and Rady Abdel Moety file a lawsuit in Menouf, Monufiya, accusing Nour Party member Khaled Saeed Makhlouf of assaulting FJP candidates. The plaintifs allege Nour supporters attacked them after they photographed a car carrying Makhlouf and Salafi preacher Mohamed Hassan — in violation, they say, of the ban on election-day campaigning.
Minor clashes between Nour and FJP supporters also break out in two Monufiya villages.
3:45 pm: Members of movements including the Revolution Youth Coalition, Youth for Justice and Freedom, Kefaya, April 6 and the National Association for Change distributed flyers urging people not to vote for former National Democratic Party members who are running for parliament.
April 6 spokesperson Ahmed Gamal said the campaign aims to give voters a list a figures that once belonged to Mubarak's regime . The flyers included lists from 12 parties: Egyptian Citizen, National Egyptian, Arab Egyptian Union, the Arab Party for Justice and Equality, Union, Freedom, Modern Egypt, Conservatives, the New Independents, the Democratic Social Egyptian and Ghad Party.
In Imbaba, one voter said he would cast his ballot for the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) because “freedom is good and justice is good.”
3:40 pm: Abdel Moez Ibrahim of the high elections commission says a Sohag candidate who was had purportedly died is still alive, and that reports of his death were rumors.
3:30 pm: Security forces closed the Khaled Ibn al-Waleed School polling station in southern Giza for two hours after an armed fight broke out between two families supporting different candidates. The families exchanged gunfire in the school playground for half an hour, according to authorities.
No one was injured or killed, said Wael al-Shorbagui, the judge overseeing the electoral committee where the fight took place.
3:00 pm: The FJP has received a complaint from Atfeeh residents stating that representatives of Wafd Party candidate Major General Abdel Wahab Khalil are preventing voters from casting ballots at the Zeiny and Atfeeh primary schools.
2:15 pm: Judge Mohamed Alaa, the head of the polling stations in Waraq district, Giza, halted the voting process for an hour at two polling stations after FJP and Nour Party supporters attempted to sway voters.
A special committee will be dispatched to detained activist-blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah to allow him to vote, said Youssry Abdel Karim, the head of the technical bureau at the high elections commission.
Abd El Fattah is being detained pending investigations into his alleged involvement in Maspero clashes in October. Abdel Karim said the decision to allow Abd El Fattah to vote would not be applied to other people who are detained pending investigations.
2:10 pm: An Egypt Independent correspondent reported seeing people handing out leaflets at the Saad Zaghloul school station in Omraneya for the Reform and Development Party and independent candidate Al-Amir Moussa Ahmed Ali.
As Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa cast his vote at al-Qarya al-Seyaheya al-Oula School in 6th of October City, he called on political powers to stop trading accusations and discussing superficial matters. He called for "immediately starting discussions about key issues that are more useful to the nation," and which will help the country develop.
Voters, he said should choose candidates based on their competence and ability to meet people’s health, education and developmental demands.
2:00 pm: Essam al-Erian, FJP vice chairman and parliamentary candidate, cast his ballot at the Ahmed Zewail School polling station in Omraneya, Giza, Wednesday morning.
“The FJP will win a larger proportion of seats during the second round of elections,” he predicted.
Meanwhile, FJP delegates outside the Omar Makram Primary and Talaat Harb Schools in the Kanisa district distributed campaign fliers, which led to an altercation with one female voter who threatened to file an official complaint if they did not stop their illegal campaigning.
1:55 pm: At a polling station in the Sharqiya village of Meet Rabee'a, women waiting in line are reciting the FJP symbols they say they will vote for. Naglaa Fathy, a 25-year-old mother of three, said FJP volunteers gave the women papers with the party symbols on them.
"I chose them because I saw how much they suffered and they are the ones that will bring about change," said Nazyha Hassan of the Muslim Brotherhood party. "We don't know any other parties. This is the party that we know and has been living with us."
1:50 pm: "Tribal affinities and tensions still exist here but it is manifested in a more civilized and less violent way,” said Sohag voter Abul Saoud Saleh. “In the past, members of Awlad Salem, which is one of the biggest tribes here, used to force people to go and vote for their candidates in previous elections. They are not doing that anymore.”
Saleh added that people now have the freedom for campaign for candidates not affiliated with their tribes.
Another voter, Maarouf Mohamed, spoke about why independent candidates struggle to woo supporters away from their tribal alliances.
"The problem is that independent candidates contesting single-winner seats do not seem to have a political program,” he said. “That's why I would end up voting for someone who is from my tribe or my acquaintances. The party lists, however, have shown some interesting political programs, especially the FJP and the Egyptian Bloc."
1:45 pm: The armed forces in charge of securing electoral committees in Imbaba requested additional military police at some polling stations because of high voter turnout. Security forces also prevented Nour and FJP supporters from distributing campaign material to voters outside the Future School polling station.
1:35 pm: Tarek Beshry, a member of the Free Egyptians Party, which is part of the Egyptian Bloc, stormed into the coalition’s office in Suez saying, "We are very weak. The FJP are doing so well campaigning. We have to do something a about it."
He said he brought volunteers from Cairo to help out during voting Wednesday and Thursday, but said they would not be actively campaigning at the polls.
"They will just help with the organization inside polling station and make sure to be present to monitor. The FJP is influencing voters in the lines and we need to be there to balance," said Mahran Abdel Hamid Mahran, who is running on the Egyptian Bloc party list.
Meanwhile in Monufiya, an FJP campaigner with a microphone was urging people to come out and vote for the party.
In the Monufiya district that used to belong to leading NDP member Ahmed Ezz, most voters waiting in line are holding FJP cards with information on how to vote and the symbols of which FJP candidates they should vote for, but not everyone is convinced.
"I am free to vote for whomever I want," said Reda Abdel Rahman, 40.
Voters are angry that the same polling station opened an hour late because the supervising judge decided to move the ballots and boxes to a different room.
1:00 pm: In Hawamdeya, the Salafi Nour Party distributed flyers and carried banners bearing the photos and boasting the support of imams Mohamed Hassan and Yasser Borhamy. Hassan had earlier rejected the party’s use of his photo, saying that it had not asked him for permission.
12:32 pm: "We've had enough. We want some well-educated people," said voter Samiha Fahmy at the Orman School in Agouza. She accused Islamist parties of campaigning dishonestly and said that honesty is the most important quality in Islam.
12:30 pm: A group of students marched through the streets of Manwarish village in Beni Suef chanting pro-Wafd slogans. Other students from al-Maymoun primary school in Wasti hoisted banners in support of FJP candidates.
Wafd candidate Zoheir Maged Haggag and independent Ahmed Youssef both reported seeing the names of deceased citizens registered on voter lists in several Beni Suef polling stations.
12:20 pm: Atef Adawy, a candidate for the single-winner seat Sohag’s first constituency, died of a heart attack around one hour after the polls opened.
11:45 am: Candidates’ supporters distributed leaflets in front of the polling station in Hawamdiya, Giza, in violation of the law that requires campaigning to halt 48 hours before elections.
11:30 am: Police distributed water bottles among voters at polls close to the Dokki police station. “Police at the people’s service,” read the bottle labels.
In Sohag, Helmy Ahmed Mahmoud, who represents FJP candidate Mohamed Abdel Hamid Ali, said, "This year around it's peaceful. Even better, [during] these elections we don't see police chiefs interfering for specific candidates. We don't see politicians or the government resorting to the same tactics and fraud."
11:15 am: Monufiya’s Bagour district, a long-time National Democratic Party stronghold, is witnessing a fierce competition between the liberal Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. But turnout appears to be fairly low at Kamal al-Shazly school, which is named after the late NDP stalwart who died weeks before the outbreak of the January revolution.
Voter Kamal Tawfiq Mazrou', a Ministry of Environment employee, lamented his death, saying, "Shazly was a great man who used to serve us and the whole constituency and he had no vested interests. I believe that FJP are the best after Shazly. They are very generous with people and the most organized."
"We feel the light has come up. We can finally breath. We witnessed blatant vote rigging throughout the years in this school for Shazly. Today is completely different and we are very optimistic about the results," Hanan Rashad, Wafd member told Egypt Independent. For several elections, her party had sought to defeat Shazly by fielding one of its most famous leaders in the province Mohamed Kamal. This year, Kamal appears on the top of the liberal party's list with high hopes of making it to parliament.
An Egypt Independent correspondent reported seeing judges marking the ballot for some voters.
Earlier, an FJP representative was kicked out of the polling center after one woman complained that he was illegally campaigning for the party.
11:05 am: US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson visited the Gamal Abdel Nasser School in Dokki, where several voters asked her about what Washington’s stance would be in the likely event that Islamists win a parliamentary majority.
The US is only concerned with achieving democracy in Egypt and not with who wins the elections, she said.
11:00 am: A long queue of voters lines Sudan Street outside the Imbaba Industrial Education School, where army officers stopped professional seat candidate Ahmed Mortada Mansour’s supporters from distributing leaflets.
10:51 am: The FJP issued a statement praising high voter turnout, saying it "proves that the Egyptian people are keen to defend their right to democracy and to conclude the electoral process in a way that can put us on the path of democratic transition." The same statement pointed out irregularities including the delay in opening some polling stations in Ismailia, Beni Suef and Sohag.
Thirty-nine voting stations in Aswan, Beheira, Sharqiya, Monufiya and Sohag opened late, according to the Ministry of Interior, mainly because judges arrived late.
10:40 am: In Sharqiya’s Abu Hamad district, voting is getting off to a slow start as a few dozen citizens go to the polls. This constituency has a particularly fierce race between the liberal Wafd and the Freedom and Justice parties. Wafd is fielding two former parliamentarians and members of former President Hosni Mubarak's dissolved National Democratic Party. The two Wafd candidates, Tareq al-Sweidy and Mostafa al-Hoot, won their seats during the 2010 parliamentary elections. The FJP is fielding Farid Ismail on top of its list. Ismail served in the 2005-2010 parliament.
10:35 am: The Nour Party is busing dozens of mostly elderly women to the Abdel Rahman Ibn Ouf Elementary School in Suez. Meanwhile, some women were campaigning for the Salafi Nour Party along the line of voters waiting to cast ballots.
10:30 am: Turnout appears to be significantly higher in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Sohag than in past elections. So far, no illegal election day campaigning has been reported outside polling stations amid tight military and police security. Judges supervising the stations were checking journalists’ credentials from the high elections commission before allowing them to enter.
Some candidates are providing minibuses to transport voters in eastern Sohag, many of whom live up to 5km away from the nearest polling stations. The pictures of FJP candidate Kamal Gaalous and former member National Democratic Party member Ahmed Abu Higgy were posted on some of these buses.
"All the candidates have to provide minibuses because our polling stations are far. For those of us who don't have transportation, it's a necessary condition to go vote," said Mohamed Ameen, a 40-year-old farmer from the outskirts of Akhmeem district.
Sohag voters are electing 30 People’s Assembly members, 10 of whom will be chosen from among 300 candidates for single-winner seats in five constituencies. The remaining 20 seats will go to party list candidates.
In 6th of October City, voting at some 10th district polling stations was delayed half an hour due to judges arriving late. Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party were seen distributing flyers 100 meters from polling stations.
Polls in Beni Suef Governorate opened at 8 am, but the supervising judge at one station delayed voting an hour to wait for the candidates’ representatives.
Around 278 candidates are running for Beni Suef's 18 parliamentary seats — six single-winner and 12 party list seats.
Lines were already long at the second constituency polling stations, where Nour and Freedom and Justice Party representatives were still campaigning and had set up booths 200 meters from the stations to guide voters.
In Aswan, Edfu, Kom Ombo and Daraw districts saw high turnout. Some polling stations opened late because candidates representatives did not show up on time. Al-Gomhurriya and Ahmed Orabi school voting stations opened one hour late.
So far, no last-minute campaigning has been reported in Aswan, where 108 candidates are vying for two single-winner seats — 45 for the worker's seat and 63 for professional's seat.
10:15 am: The Salafi Nour party is distributing flyers outside polling stations in Suez, violating a ban on campaigning during the vote. Outside one polling station, a woman approached a police officer to complain about other women in line who she claimed were urging fellow voters to cast ballots for the Salafi Nour Party and the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. The police officer declined to intervene.
10:00 am: In the Agouza, Giza's third district, an Egypt Independent correspondent saw election monitors and civilians removing campaign posters, as campaigning during the poll is not allowed. At some point, a four-wheel car covered with posters of Conservative Party candidate Abdel Tawab al-Daragly stopped in front of the polling station and dropped off three cardboard boxes, which were immediately taken inside the school where the voting is taking place.
9:30 am: Lines are short at the Aw'af Primary School for Girls in Agouza, where fewer than 100 voters are calmly waiting. Monitors and civilians are tearing down campaign posters and making sure that garbage collectors cart the campaign material away.