Amid a fluctuating turnout and a number of legal violations, polling stations opened their doors on Wednesday to more than 50 million eligible voters in Egypt’s much-anticipated post-revolution presidential elections.
Egyptians are expected to choose their next president out of 11 candidates today and tomorrow and potentially put an end to a 15-month period of military rule. The outcome of the poll is unpredictable, with five viable candidates including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy, moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi, former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, and Hosni Mubarak’s last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.
Until late afternoon, many observers sensed a smaller turnout compared to last year’s legislative elections, in which about 54 percent of Egypt’s registered voters went to the polls. When Egypt Independent spoke to Hafez Abou-Saeda, the secretary general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) at 3:30 pm, he said that the turnout in Cairo, Alexandria and Daqahlia was the highest, ranging from 40 to 50 percent. “However, it did exceed 25 percent in other provinces,” said Hafez, whose organization, along with 127 other groups, is monitoring the poll in 22 out of Egypt’s 27 provinces.
Yet, as soon as the sun set and the heat waned, the turnout increased significantly. “The turnout increased only in the last two hours before the polling stations closed,” Tareq Zaghloul, another EOHR leader, told Egypt Independent later. “Most working voters went to work during the day, returned home to rest and then went to vote,” he explained. The influx of voters prompted the Presidential Elections Commission to extend voting hours until 9 pm from 7 pm.
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