Low voter turnout persists in parliamentary runoffs

Low voting rates continued throughout the runoff period during the first round of polls for the 569-seat House of Representatives' elections on Tuesday, hours after Egyptian diplomatic missions reported a similar moderate turnout on Monday.
In these polls, 2,518 out of 2,544 candidates are competing for seats in 99 constituencies out of a total of 103 in 14 provinces, excluding Cairo.
The High Elections Commission said that 26 percent of voters attended the first round on October 18 and 19, despite earlier media and official estimates that put the rate at a maximum of 7 percent.
“I came to cast my vote fearing the fine,” one employed voter told Al-Masry Al-Youm outside the polling station at Omm al-Mo’menin Secondary School in Giza, referring to a LE500 fine imposed by the High Elections Commission. “I heard they would withdraw supply smart cards from people who do not vote,” she added, noting that she canceled her vote because she was “unconvinced” by any of the candidates.
Mona Gabr, an employee at Giza’s educational department, said she decided to vote despite having undergone eye surgery. “I personally saw candidates buying votes for LE200, so I came to deny them that opportunity.”
Eihab Nagy, a candidate representative, said turnout remains lower than the first round, but pointed to a remarkable attendance by Coptic voters.
Rehab Ouf, a teacher from the 6th of October city, said the constituency was too large and there were too many candidates for voters to be familiar with. She added that the turnout was different from the presidential elections or the Constitution in 2014.
“Candidates intensified their campaigns overnight, violating the electoral silence period,” said Shehab Gamal Eddin, another 6th of October resident. “Candidate representatives spread across the city’s main squares and at its entrances, giving out leaflets and urging voters to attend candidate conferences.”
In the Upper Egyptian province of Assiut, many polling stations were almost completely vacant. Many citizens had a hard time finding transportation to work and schools, as candidates had rented microbuses to carry potential voters to polling stations.
Low turnout was also the most notable phenomenon recorded by the Local-International Mission to Observe Parliamentary Elections, an alliance of several local and international democracy groups observing the polls.
The mission said it had not, however, detected any violations of the electoral rules.
Sayyed Diaa-Eddin, a local member of the mission, said “weak turnout is the most negative phenomenon”, adding that “most of the ballot boxes contain no more than 50 ballots”.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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