Egypt Independent

Run-offs digest: Egyptians face intimidation and vote-buying at the ballot box…again

Amid tight security measures, polling centers opened today for the parliamentary run-off polls. So far minor violent clashes, electoral bribes and vote rigging in favor of few opposition candidates have marred the electoral process.

Three people were injured in north Sinai after clashes erupted between supporters of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Ramadan Sarhan and independent nominee Soliman al-Zallout. Several supporters sustained moderate injuries and were transferred to Beir al-Abd hospital, sources at the facility said.

Onlookers noticed a heightened presence of high-ranking police officials outside polling stations, seemingly there to prevent the recurrence of last week's violence.

Elections-related clashes claimed at least seven lives last week.

The highpoint of today’s poll is reports of ballot stuffing in favor of some opposition candidates. According to Ahmed Fawzi, head of the Egyptian Association for the Enhancement of Political Participation, unidentified parties filled ballots in Aqa district with the name and symbol of the leftist Tagammu Party candidate Ra’afat Seif.

These allegations prompted Fawzi's NDP contender to withdraw from the poll.

“The second round is not true elections,” said Fawzi whose group has been monitoring the vote. “They [the regime] want to make some opposition candidates win to prove to opposition parties that they were wrong when they withdrew.”

The run-off vote comes on the heels of the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal Wafd Party decision to boycott the run-off polls, citing electoral violations. Last week’s first round ended up with a sweeping victory of the ruling party. Meager concessions to NDP competitors provoked outrage among opposition figures.

The nation’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, came out of the first race empty-handed, as none of its 130 candidates secured a seat. As for Wafd, electoral authorities declared only two of its nearly 220 nominations outright victors. Tagammu garnered only one seat.

While the Brotherhood and Wafd announced a full boycott of the run-off, Tagammu permitted its six remaining candidates to participate.

Meanwhile, five of Wafd’s eight candidates on the run-off ballots defied the party’s decision and persisted with their bids.

Ramy Lakkah, a prominent Christian businessman is one of those five.

Observers saw Lakkah's representatives and supporters outside polling centers today in the Shubra district of central Cairo. Lakkah is running against NDP leader Fady Habashy, in a district densely populated by Copts. Some of Lakkah’s representatives complained to Al-Masry Al-Youm that they were denied entry to many polling stations, while his supporters alleged that they were attacked by thugs affiliated with Habashy. Lakkah's delegate Ekramy Hassan accused the thugs of electrocuting Lakkah supporters with charged batons.

One Christian family endorsing Lakkah told Al-Masry Al-Youm they were attacked by thugs the night preceding the run-offs and warned not to vote for Lakkah.

Fawzi, the monitor, brings another dimension to the contest in Lakkah’s district, noting that the electoral process in the district is plagued by bribery by both candidates.

“Bribes reached 70 Egyptian pounds per vote and this amount is expected to go higher through the day,” said Fawzi, adding that individual bribes reached up to LE100 in other parts of Cairo.

Bribery is also reported outside the capital. A dozen voters reportedly stood outside a polling station in the Delta province of Tanta, demanding “their money” from the campaigners of NDP candidate Ahmed Shoubeir. In Alexandria, observers noted the price for one vote ranged from LE40 to 100 in some districts.