Turnout in the first round of parliamentary elections continues to be low, despite efforts from officials to boost numbers on the second day of voting.
Despite President Abdel Fattah El Sisi encouraging voters to “line up outside polling stations,” an initial tally of the votes from Sunday shows a voter turnout of 11 to 15 percent, state media Al Ahram reported. State news agency MENA quoted Prime Minister Sherif Ismail as saying the turnout on the first day was 15 to 16 percent and is likely to increase on Monday.
After the elections were postponed repeatedly, polls opened in 14 provinces, including Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Beheira, Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh on Sunday.
Most of those who showed up to vote have been women and other citizens aged 60 or more, while those aged 18-21 recorded the lowest turnout rates.
The turnout abroad was not much better; according to Aswat Masriya, the Egyptian embassy in Brussels recorded fewer than 20 voters over the two days of voting, while the HEC released a statement saying that only three individuals voted in New Zealand. Egyptian embassies and consulates in 139 states acted as polling stations on Saturday and Sunday for Egyptians living abroad.
Despite Ismail’s optimism that the turnout will increase, the initial numbers stand in sharp contrast with the 62 percent turnout in the last parliamentary elections, held in 2012 under ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s rule.
Some attributed the low turnout to a general sense of confusion amid voters, despite candidates holding rallies and blasting election songs over the 18 days allotted for campaigning.
Meanwhile, many youths took to social media to sound off on the elections, which many are calling a sham. On Twitter, the Arabic hashtag #Instead_of_voting started trending on Saturday.
#بدل_ما_تنتخب افتح التلفزيون و تابع اللجان الفاضيه… و شوف حوسه المراسل و هو عايز يقول اللجنه فاضيه بس مش قادر 😂😂
— آلاء (@alaaahmedosama1) October 19, 2015
Translation: #Instead_of_voting turn on the television and watch the empty polling stations … and see how flustered the reporter is as he wants to say the station is empty but cannot.
Picture Translation: – “Go vote.” The people: seen
The government is now using both the carrot and the stick in attempts to boost turnout. On Sunday, the HEC announced in a press conference that it would allow all voters entering the polls after 9 and those with an expired national ID to submit their ballots. The Cabinet announced Monday would be a half day for state workers to give them a chance to vote, and the Cairo Post reported that citizens in Alexandria will have access to free transportation from 1 pm until 9 pm.
In an official statement on Saturday, Ayman Abbas, head of the HEC and President of the Cairo Court of Appeal, said that eligible Egyptian voters who choose to abstain from voting without justification will face a 500 EGP ($US 63) fine.
However, this fine has been around for several years but has not been implemented because there is controversy surrounding whether boycotting counts as “justification” for not voting.
The polls are scheduled to close on Monday at 9 pm and the second round of voting in the remaining 13 governorates, including Cairo, will take place on November 22-23.