Live Updates: Egyptians Go To The Polls To Choose Their President

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10:30 In the city of Suez, a military helicopter is hovering amid tightened measures to secure the voting and the city’s key waterway, the Suez Canal, a military source told Al-Ahram Arabic.

10:20 Security forces have dispersed a protest by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Alexandria, and arrested ten of its participants, reported Al-Ahram’s Arabic website.

Alexandria security official Nasser El-Abd said that the protest was dispersed in accordance with the protest law, which bans any demonstrations that have not obtained a permit from authorities in advance.

The law has stoked controversy, with critics of the authorities arguing that it is deployed selectively and used to quell legitimate opposition. Security officials say the law is a necessary measure in the face of militant attacks.

El-Abd said that the protesters were aiming to distort the electoral process using Molotov cocktails and fireworks. He added that security forces are deployed around all polling stations.

Police and army are cooperatively securing the electoral process, a security source explained to the Ahram Arabic website. Army forces are also deployed in front of polling stations and in nearby streets.

10:15 An EU monitoring group has arrived at a polling station in Maadi, says Ahram Online’s Dina Samak.

The EU is one of a number of observation missions that are deployed on the ground today. The African Union has also sent observers, as has the Arab League and the Arab Parliament. There are also a number of NGOs monitoring the vote.

10:00 In Orman polling station in Agouza, Giza, security refused to allow media inside polling stations before 12pm, reports Zeinab El-Guindy.

Observers from NGO Democracy International were allowed to enter the polling station, however.

In front of the polling station, Salma Sayed, a middle class woman in her twenties, says she will vote for El-Sisi because she believes and hopes that he will rescue the country.

“Voting is the way to fix the country” she tells El-Guindy.

9:50 Further comments from Sabahi, who spoke to the media a little while ago while queueing to cast his vote in Mohandiseen. The leftist said he “strongly objected” to a draft law setting out new rules for the upcoming parliamentary elections. “We need a parliament that fits the revolution…where at least 50 percent [of candidates run on] party lists and one that cultivates a democratic base.”

“Egyptians’ pain of poverty is no less than their pain of terrorism and [lack] of security,” Sabahi added.

“We don’t want to give priority to security while leaving people hungry…we want to move forward in parallel.”

9:35 Doors were around half an hour late to open at the Gomhoreya School polling station in Cairo’s upscale Maadi district, reports Ahram Online’s Dina Samak — bad news for the long queues of voters waiting outside.

“We can wait. It’s only one day,” a middle aged woman tells other waiting voters. Several women ululate in celebration.

Meanwhile, in Agouza’s Qawmiyya polling station, Ibtesam, the widow of a police officer, tells Ahram Online she is voting because “it is important to build the nation’s future.” She says she will vote for El-Sisi because “he cares for the country and saved it from chaos.”

9:30 Candidate Hamdeen Sabahi has also cast his vote, in Mohandiseen in Giza. TV footage shows him pressed on all sides by crowds.

“We hope for a large turnout…to reach 30 million,” Sabahi told waiting reporters. The leftist contender pledged to “make serious decisions (that would) fulfilling the legitimate dreams of Egyptians, namely social justice, rectifying the situations of those in prisons for [expressing] their opinions…as well as [launching] a war on corruption,” he added.

9:25 Abdel-Aziz Soliman, general secretary of the Presidential Elections Commission — the judicial body responsible for organising the election — has stated that all polling stations have opened on time and there have been no complaints reported so far.

He also said that turnout seems high, Al-Ahram Arabic reported.

9:20 Outgoing president Adly Mansour, has reached his polling station in Cairo’s Heliopolis district, reported Al-Ahram Arabic website.

Presidential hopeful El-Sisi has also arrived at a different polling station in the same district to cast his ballot. Television footage shows him, surrounded by numerous bodyguards, struggling to reach move through excited crowds.

Military helicopters have also been seen hovering over Heliopolis.

9:10 Outside Cairo, security is tight at polling stations across several governorates. Police and troops have been heavily deployed in the Nile Delta’s Gharbiya, Sharqiya and Fayoum, all north of the capital, and security barriers have been erected along the streets leading to polling stations, closing them off to traffic, according to Al-Ahram Arabic’s reporters.

9:00 Business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, who is a founding member of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, was standing in a long queue in front of Zamalek School. He smiles and tells Lina El-Wardani that he is very hopeful “the new leader will not be a dictator; he will have to respect human rights and law. Democracy will bring stability.” The Free Egyptians Party is one of the groups that are supporting El-Sisi’s candidacy.

When asked about the deteriorating economy Sawiris said that democracy is the only way to save the economy. “Egypt is a very rich country. We have great resources. If the leader of the country’s puts his own interest and the country’s as one, this will work for our benefit and the economy will revive.”

8:55 Waiting in a long queue outside a polling station in Cairo’s Zamalek, Father Althanasius Wanis, a Coptic Orthodox priest in the northern Giza bishopric, told Ahram Online’s Lina El-Wardani: “I have stood in longer queues. I have voted every time since January 2011. Egyptians now have awareness and know their vote matters. I am confident Egyptians will turn out in huge numbers to face the terrorists.”

Wanis denied the church is favouring either candidate. “We just want people to vote. Egyptians and especially Copts have suffered a lot during the past year. It is time for a fair leader with vision to run this country and come to its rescue.”

8:50 Queues are forming at polling stations already, according to Ahram Online’s reporters on the ground. At Qawmeya school in Giza’s Agouza district, there are already long lines of both men and women, according to Zeinab El-Guindy, who says that the voters are mostly middle aged or elderly. One woman holds a poster of Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

There are also long lines in Sayeda Zeinab, a working class district of Cairo. Mai Shaheen reports that security in front of the polling stations is very tight; at El-Baheya El-Borahneya polling station, military security refuses to let voters in yet, causing an argument. Some voters try to make their way inside by force while security pushes them back, and several women start screaming as tension mounts, reports Shaheen.

8:45 Welcome to our live coverage of day one of Egypt’s 2014 presidential election. The vote will bring to the country’s top post either former military chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi or the only other candidate, presidential elections veteran and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi.

Polling stations open at 9am across Egypt and should be open for 12 hours – with possible extensions depending on turnout. Egypt’s expat vote, held last week, saw El-Sisi secure a landslide win, gaining 94.5 percent of the vote.

Before a campaign blackout was imposed on Saturday and Sunday, in accordance with Egyptian law, El-Sisi urged Egyptians to take to the polls, calling for at least 40 million (of 54 million registered voters) to cast their ballots.

A little over 26 million Egyptians cast their votes in the runoff presidential poll in 2012 which brought Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi to power, while over 20 million Egyptians took part in a constitutional referendum in January that saw an amended charter approved by 98.1 percent of voters.

Police and army forces have been deployed to secure the presidential vote amid promises by officials guaranteeing the safety of the election. In comparison to the 2012 poll, however, the security situation has worsened. Since the ouster of Morsi in July and a bloody dispersal of a Brotherhood sit-in a month later, militant attacks against army and police forces have become common. The Brotherhood – despite denying any connection to the attacks – is now designated a terrorist group. The group — along with several other, non-Islamist political groups and parties — is calling on voters to boycott the election.

The army has issued guidelines for voters, including instructions not to park vehicles at polling stations and to avoid bringing bags or belongings for security reasons.

Source : Ahram online

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