Everything You Need to Know About the First Phase of Elections: Day Two

Egypt’s parliamentary elections continued on Monday. Turnout remained low, the vote again dominated by women and elderly voters. Reports of electoral violations, in particular vote buying, were widespread. As preliminary and unofficial results trickled in, it looked that the pro-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Fi Hob Misr list emerged victorious, both in the domestic and expat votes. 


The government took several measures aimed at boosting turnout on Monday. Egypt’s cabinet gave state employees a half day off, while according to AP, state-run daily Al Ahram reported that the government urged private businesses to ensure employees are able to get off work and vote. Television hosts Mohamed Sherdi from Al-Mehwer TV and Youssef Al-Hosseiny from ONTV mocked the government’s decision to give state works a half-day. They said the low turnout was due to lack of knowledge regarding the candidates and low motivation rather than a lack of time to vote.  Meanwhile, Governor of Alexandria Hany al-Messeiry offered free public transportation from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Monday in order to encourage citizens to vote. “Vote or otherwise don’t complain about any decisions that are made on your behalf,” he reportedly stated.

Judge Abdullah al-Kholy told Mada Masr that voter turnout in Alexandria increased slightly to reach 15 percent as polls closed on Monday night. DNE reported that turnout in Fayoum also rose slightly, but reported overall low turnout in rural governorates. The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) also reported a slight increase. It said voters’ lack of information about candidates was the main reason for the low participation rates.

There were rumors that the government would extend voting for a third day due to the reports of low turnout, however High Elections Committee (HEC) Spokesman Omar Marwan announced that there were no plans for an extension.

Minister of Local and Administrative Development Zaki Badr echoed the HEC’s earlier statement, saying on Monday that the ministry would collect EGP 500 fines from individuals who do not vote.

According to the HRDO Center to Support Digital Expression, more than 200 headlines in Egyptian newspapers were directed to female voters on Sunday and Monday in an attempt to increase female participation in the elections. AP reporters in Giza said that elderly people and women again dominated those casting ballots.

Judges overseeing the ballot suggested turnout had risen to 20 percent or more by Monday afternoon.

In the Giza constituency of Omraneya, judges in polling stations said turnout slightly increased on the Monday, but that participation rates were largely the same as they were on Sunday. Judges said that less than 220 out of 2,460 registered voters in the constituency participated on both days.

On Monday, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said that reports published in western media outlets that linked low voter turnout to the level of popular support for Egypt’s leadership reflected attempts to “tarnish Egypt’s image.” He called such reports “misguided and misinformed.” He said that “attempts to jump to conclusions regarding the results and significance of the elections” before polling was closed indicated the inaccuracy of these reports. He also criticized western outlets for “questioning the future parliament’s ability to exercise its mandate.”

On Tuesday, Marwan said that no official turnout rates had been published and that any data that has been published so far has been false.


Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) said that that forty-four political parties ‎contested the first stage of the elections. ACPSS figures indicated that the number of legally licensed ‎political parties decreased to eighty-three in 2015, from over 100 in 2012. Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie noted, “The political developments in Egypt in the last two ‎years have negatively impacted political parties.” He said that thirteen of the forty-four parties participated in the elections as members of electoral coalitions competing for party-based seats. Thirty-one of the parties fielded independent candidates.

In a statement on Monday, the HRDO Center said that the ratio of female candidates stood at only 5.6 percent out of a total 5,420 candidates for individual seats. The statement added that the ratio of female candidates in the 2011 parliamentary elections was 9 percent and 8 percent in the 2010 parliamentary elections.

On Tuesday, Youm7 reported that candidate Mahmoud Khalafallah, who died two weeks before the elections, obtained 386 votes at a polling station in Minya. The HEC said he obtained the votes even though there was a sign in the polling station saying that he had passed away. Another candidate, Ali Elba, who was disqualified from running the day before the elections, received over 60 percent of the votes in a polling station in Alexandria, after his name was not removed from the ballot. A voting official said the votes Elba received will be considered void.

A poll by independent polling organization, Baseera found that 12 percent of voters were aware that members of the Muslim Brotherhood were running under other affiliations in the elections. The organization also found that 32 percent of voters were aware that former members of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party were running.

Voter Apathy

DNE reported that most of the young people it spoke to during the elections were members of electoral campaigns for various candidates. One unemployed 23 year old said that he was acting as a campaign representative in order to make extra money. Another 29 year old who was representing the principal at the school where he works said that youth were “absent” from the elections. He criticized media for suggesting that Muslim Brotherhood members were preventing individuals from voting, saying that “people are voluntarily abstaining from participating.”

He added that the voters he saw “[were] completely lost and [did] not understand anything; many are illiterate which create[d] opportunity to direct their votes.”

Another voter told Mada Masr that many voters were confused by the list system. “Many people don’t know how to deal with the list system. They are looking for a particular candidate and the list has confused them,” he explained. “Given what I’ve heard from people coming out [of polling stations], there’s lots of confusion. I expect many ballots will be invalidated because of this,” he added.

One female voter, referencing President Sisi’s speech on Saturday night, said she participated “because Sisi told us to participate.” She explained the low turnout by Egypt’s “lack of change,” which she said has led Egyptians to lose faith in the electoral process.

In Imbaba, Ahram Online reported one man in his early twenties as saying that some of his friends, whose parents are running in the elections, pressured him to vote, however he decided not to vote. Another man in his early twenties said he had researched all the candidates and lists running in his district but he didn’t believe that any of them deserved his vote. “It’s all the same; I can’t feel any change and it’s the same for many of my friends,” he said of the current political scene.

President of Egypt’s Social Democratic Party Mohamed Abul Ghar, whose party is participating in the elections, attributed the low turnout to a lack of public confidence in the next parliament. “They do not believe it would solve the economic and political problems,” he said. He also said that Egypt’s youth is angry because the government has failed to successfully reach out to young people.

On Monday, Reuters reported that business daily Al Mal’s front page headline read “An Election without Voters,” while independent daily Al Shorouk ran a headline that read “Elections without Queues.”

Reactions to Turnout

Several analysts told Ahram Online that there were signs that turnout would be low prior to the elections. “Media outlets mounted attacks and organized smear campaigns against political parties, so they were unable to get their message across to the public,” said Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) researcher Yousri al-Azabawi. He added that many parties were not prepared to campaign due to internal rifts. “Also bear in mind that many who supported President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime have become frustrated by a lack of economic development,” he added. Director of the Arab Forum for Alternatives Mohamed al-Agaty also said he wasn’t surprised by the low turnout.

Former Assistant Interior Minister Magdy Bassiouny criticized Egypt’s youth on national television for not voting “If you’re still under the covers, get up and participate. Use your voice, choose whoever you want,” he said, adding, “If they told you to go down to the coffee shop and smoke shisha, you would go.”

Other television presenters called on Egyptians to head to the polls. Cairo Today host Amr Adeeb emphasized the responsibility to vote and said police officers were roaming the streets “like lions” to keep the elections secure. He said “anyone with patriotism should cast their vote out of gratitude.” CBC host Khairy Ramadan repeatedly asked voters, “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you going out?” He said that if parliament “turns out badly,” it would be the responsibility of individuals who did not vote. On Ramadan’s show, human rights lawyer Negad al-Boraei attributed the weak turnout to citizens’ feelings of powerless regarding politics.

Dandarawy al-Hawary, writing in the daily Youm7, said Egyptians failed to turn out in large numbers to vote because they have been distracted since an actress said on her television show that she watched porn and encouraged young people to do the same to get a sexual education. “It is the bitter truth that Egyptian society, across all its sectors, was more concerned with discussing pornographic films…and everyone forgot the most important parliamentary election in Egypt,” Hawary wrote.

Violations and Complaints

The Judges Club said it received a very small number of complaints on the second day of voting. A case of a woman wearing a niqab (face veil), and trying to vote with someone else’s identification card was being investigated. The NCHR documented widespread campaign violations, and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights reported incidents of bribery and vote buying in Minya, Fayoum and Aswan.

DNE reported that a driver bringing elderly women to a polling station in Giza instructed them to vote for the Fi Hob Misr list. An aide from the HEC reportedly told DNE that it is “common for older people to receive guidance from certain candidates outside the [polling] station.” He said that judges monitoring the voting process cannot stop these activities because “the judge has no authority outside. He can physically control things from inside the [polling station] and within 50 meters of its vicinity.”

Ahram Online reported that security forces arrested three Nour Party members who were handing out promotional flyers in front of a polling station in the Raml district of Alexandria.

Head of the Wafd Party’s Media Committee Yasser Hassan asserted that the low turnout was encouraging some candidates to engage in vote buying. He said that some have already started buying votes ahead of the second round of the elections, scheduled for the end of next month.

A candidate for the Socialist Popular Alliance Party Moataz al-Shennawy sent a complaint to the Interior Minister, Prosecutor General, and head of the HEC accusing other candidates of vote buying. He criticized the authorities for failing to take action against violations.

On Monday night following the closure of the polls, Marwan said the HEC received 289 complaints of electoral violations on Monday, most of which he said weren’t “real or serious.”

The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) also reported widespread electoral violations, including vote buying, in Assiut. One elderly woman said she did not know whom to vote for, so a judge marked her ballot on her behalf. TIMEP said this kind of incident was also witnessed on the first day of voting in Qena. Voters were handed campaign leaflets as they entered polling stations, and some openly discussed vote buying.


On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said that the second day of voting saw only minor clashes and that there were no dangers that prevented citizens from voting. The ministry said all cases of violence have been dealt within the limits of law. The NCHR also documented minor clashes across the country on Monday.

Clashes between supporters of two candidates competing for an independent seat in Dabeaya village in Luxor led the supervising judge Mohamed Adnan to close the polling station. Police and army personnel guarding the polling stations reportedly fired warning shots in the air to separate the two fighting sides. The polling station was reopened a few hours later.

Voting was also halted at a polling station in Qena for a half an hour following a personal dispute between the head of the polling station and the nephew of one of the candidates. Violent clashes in Kerdasa also suspended voting temporarily. State news agency MENA reported that security forces intervened to restore the voting process. Additionally, two armed men fired bullets at a voting committees in Tahta in Upper Egypt, however no injuries reported.

In Fayoum, two people were accidentally wounded when police fired shots in the air to end a fight between supporters of two rival candidates outside a polling station, Fayoum Security Director Nasser al-Abd told Aswat Masriya.

In Beheira, one man was arrested after he clashed with security forces who prevented him from entering a women’s polling station with his wife as she cast her vote. Another man was arrested after he was caught handing out fliers outside another station.

Mada Masr also reported several incidents of electoral violations. Vote buying occurred in several cities. In Beheira, campaigns offered EGP50 per vote. In Fayoum, prices were EGP200 per vote as long as voters provided a picture of their ballot proving who they voted for, according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). Alexandria residents were offered EGP300-400 for their votes, EOHR also reported. EOHR also said a journalist in Aswan wasn’t permitted to cover voting despite possessing a permit from the HEC. Observers in Minya also reported cases of vote buying. EOHR also said it received complaints that campaigners were distributing bread to voters in government buildings in October 6 City.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said there were thirty-nine cases of injuries, mostly related to high blood pressure and high temperatures.


The international observation mission from the Maat Foundation reported a slight rise in voter turnout during the first hours of the second day of elections on Monday and said that delays in the opening of polling stations were limited compared to Sunday. The mission also complained to the HEC and the Interior Ministry after its members were reportedly harassed and detained by a police officer in Beheira for half-an-hour.

The Journalists Against Torture Observatory documented seven incidents of assault on journalists in different governorates, mostly by candidate supporters. Three journalists were assaulted in Kerdasa, one in Badrasheen, one in Beheira, and two in Dokki. In addition, security forces at a school in Agouza refused to let journalists take pictures of the polling station, even though journalist possessed permits from the HEC.

The Egyptians Observe! Campaign, which is composed of twenty-four organizations and rights groups, reported that the electoral process was quiet and stable on the second day of voting. The campaign also said there was a possible rise in turnout, however it also echoed reports that most voters were women and elderly individuals. The campaign also documented clashes between opposing candidate supporters in Giza.

An operations room established by the Egyptian Social and Democratic Party also reported low turnout and various electoral violations across the country.

Expat Voting

Ahram Online reported on Monday that vote counting began at Egyptian embassies abroad. HEC Spokesperson Marwan said on Monday night that the results of expatriate voting would be out within hours. However, Deputy Foreign Minister Hamdi Loza told Al-Hayat TV that the announcement of expatriate voting results would be postponed until Tuesday morning due to a delay in receiving some results. 

The Cairo Post reported on Monday that turnout among expatriates was 5.1 percent, according to HEC officials. However, on Tuesday, the HEC said that the number of Egyptians who voted in the first phase of legislative elections was 30,531, or 4.48 percent turnout. HEC President Judge Ayman Abbas said that of those votes, 28,675 were valid and that final results would be announced at the end of the week.

In an interview with AMAY on Monday, Loza said that expatriate turnout in some countries was zero. He said that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia saw the highest levels of turnout. Loza added that he expects turnout to be higher in the second round of the elections. He noted that data on the candidates will be provided in both English and Arabic for expatriate voters in the second round, as many voters complained about a lack of knowledge of the candidates in the first round of voting.

Some Egyptian embassies abroad revealed initial results on Monday that suggest that Fi Hob Misr obtained the majority of the votes, supported by preliminary results announced on Tuesday. The Egyptian embassy in Khartoum said 109 Egyptians in Sudan cast their votes in the Upper Egypt constituencies. The embassy said Fi Hob Misr won seventy-six votes in those constituencies. The embassy said that twenty-three people cast their votes for the Alexandria and the West Delta constituencies, fourteen of which were for Fi Hob Misr. Al-Ahram reported that in Kuwait and Washington, the majority of people cast their ballots for Fi Hob Misr. Egypt’s Ambassador to Washington Yasser Reda said the list won seventy-one out of eighty-one votes in Upper Egypt, followed by Egypt’s Call and the Egyptian Front Coalition. He added Fi Hob Misr won fifty-six out of sixty-five votes cast for the West Delta constituencies.

The Egyptian Embassy in London said 280 people voted. Egypt’s Ambassador to Algeria Omar Abu Eish said only thirty people cast their votes. The Egyptian Embassy in Doha said that 2,000 people cast their votes. Most embassies said that detailed results of the election would be provided by the HEC.

Results and Runoffs

On Monday night, the HEC said that the elections results will be announced on Thursday. Marwan said vote counting would take place within the HEC’s subcommittees and that results would be sent to the HEC’s General Secretariat.

DNE reported several experts, including Director of Maat and Coordinator of the International Observation Mission Ayman Okeil, as saying that a second round of voting would be necessary for almost 90 percent of the candidates. Mada Masr reported observers as saying that most of the individual seats in the Upper Egypt and West Delta constituencies will go to a second round of voting. According to Al-Ahram, two female candidates—Nermin Badrawi who ran in the Al Hawamdya and Abu al-Nomros constituency in Giza governorate and Asmaa Abdel Hakim who ran in Giza’s al-Omrania constituency—have so far qualified for runoffs. Runoffs for the first round of elections will take place on October 26 and 27 for expatriates and October 27 and 28 inside Egypt.

On Tuesday, Ahram Online reported that preliminary results suggest that Fi Hob Misr swept the list-based seats. According to Ahram Online, Arabic language media and candidate representatives reported unofficial results in support of the list after attending vote-counting at the close of polling on Monday night. Mada Masr said most voters it spoke to said they voted for Fi Hob Misr and that preliminary reports indicated that FLE was leading the vote in the West Delta and Upper Egypt

Ahram Online also reported on the list’s defeat of the Nour Party, which failed to win the one party list constituency in which it chose to run. In addition, almost none of the party’s 160 candidates who ran as independent were able to win a seat. However, some reports suggested that thirty of the party’s candidates who ran as independents qualified for runoff elections. Youm7 said that twenty-two of the party’s candidates will compete in runoffs. Supporters of the party, particularly in its power bases in Alexandria and Beheira, expressed surprise at the results. Some said they believed the ‘No to Religious Parties’ campaign played a large role in isolating the party, especially in Alexandria. The Cairo Post reported that Fi Hob Misr received 464,909 votes in nine out of ten districts in Alexandria compared to the Nour Party’s 139,480 votes. In Beheira, Yom7 reported that FLE received 403,789 votes compared the Nour Party’s 312,450 votes in all constituencies except for the Damanhur district.

The Cairo Post added that Marsa Matrouh was the only governorate where the Nour Party won the majority of votes, with 23,000 votes against Fi Hob Misr’s 19,000 votes. However, EGYNews reported that they will face off in runoff elections in Matrouh.

DNE also reported preliminary results on Tuesday. Fi Hob Misr announced that 12 percent of polling stations in Upper Egypt had finished counting and that the list has so far won 60 percent of votes. Judge Hussein al-Sherif in Luxor and Judge Gamaly Ali in Qena both reported that Fi Hob Misr won the majority of votes. Judge Mohamed al-Banna said they received the majority of votes in three constituencies in Beni Suef. Fi Hob Misr was also reported as winning in five constituencies in Aswan. Nour Party President Younes Makhioun accused local media of bias towards Fi Hob Misr in reporting on the results.

Acting Chair of Egypt’s Socialist Popular Alliance Party Medhat al-Zahed announced Tuesday that none of the six candidates the party fielded for individual based seats won or made it to the runoffs in the first round of the elections. He said the candidates fought a “fierce and honest battle” in an unfair atmosphere where “electoral violations and vote-buying from other candidates prevailed.”

Local media and candidate representatives reported unofficial results that four candidates in the Dokki and Agouza constituency in Giza, Egypt’s so called “celebrity constituency,” will compete in a runoff for the two available individual based seats. Controversial television host Abdel Rehim Ali, son of the Zamalek chairman Ahmed Mortada Mansour, political scientist Amr Shobaki, and former member of parliament with the NDP Sayed Gohar will compete for the seats. 

Elissa Miller is a Program Assistant at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

Image: Photo: A man gets help to read names of candidates before casting his vote during parliamentary election at a voting centre in Giza governorate, Egypt, October 19, 2015. (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters)