Live updates: Egypt votes in presidential election

Polls opened promptly at 9 am on Monday morning to inaugurate Egypt’s second presidential election since 2011. This time around, voters had two candidates to choose from: former military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and veteran opposition figure Hamdeen Sabbahi. 

The election unfolds 11 months after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed by military mandate on July 3, 2013 following mass protests demanding his resignation. 

Morsi came to power in the first presidential election after the January 25 revolution, in which he beat his rival, Ahmed Shafiq, a figure from the pre-revolution Hosni Mubarak regime. 

Voting in this year’s election takes place on Monday and Tuesday in 352 main polling stations, with about 131,000 substations across the country. There are a total of 53,909,306 eligible voters in this election, according to the National Council for Human Rights. Of these, 59 percent are between the ages of 18 and 40, while the remaining are 40 and above. More than 14,000 judges will oversee the polls today and tomorrow. 

The last time Egyptians voted was in January 2014, when a referendum on a new Constitution passed with a 98 percent majority and a 38.6 percent turnout. The new document replaced one drafted in 2012 by a predominantly Islamist assembly.

This is Egypt’s seventh election since the January 25 revolution. However, some argue that none of the polls have provided sufficient legitimacy for any ruling regime over the past three years. 

10 pm: Stock market says will close Tuesday

The Egyptian Exchange decided to freeze trading on Tuesday and reopen the market on Wednesday, following a presidential decree issued late Monday that designated the second day of voting in the presidential election a public holiday. The announcement comes after the interim government repeatedly confirmed that the two voting days would not be bank holidays. 

9:30 pm: Mehleb gives public sector Tuesday off so workers can vote

In a statement broadcast on state television Monday night, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb declared that, “in response to public demand,” Tuesday would be an official holiday in order to allow public sector workers to vote on the last day of the presidential election.

Mehleb called on the private sector to ensure their employees would have time to vote, as well.

The Cabinet had earlier denied reports that Tuesday would be a day off.

Polling stations closed their doors at 9 pm on Monday night, leaving many Egyptians complaining that they didn’t have the chance to vote due to time constraints.

9 pm: HEC says voting won’t be extended, Al Jazeera correspondent arrested

Head of the High Elections Committee Abdel Aziz Salman denied rumors that voting would be extended for a third day, the state-owned news Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported on Monday evening.

Salman also refuted reports of low voter turnout on the first day of voting in the presidential election, saying that the HEC has yet to issue the official numbers of participation.

Also Monday evening, the European Union Observation Mission (EU EOM) said it would release its report on the electoral process in a preliminary statement two days after the polls close.

Chief Observer Mario David watched early hours of voting in the upscale Cairo neighborhood of Zamalek, and also visited polling stations in two other Cairo districts, the EU statement said.

“During the two days of voting, the EU EOM will observe a considerable number of polling stations across the governorates,” David said. “It is imperative that the EU EOM observers remain impartial during the entire process.”

David added that the EU mission would not interfere in the electoral process, including by making premature assessments.

“This is the election of the Egyptian people. An EU EOM neither legitimizes the electoral process, nor does it validate the election results,” he asserted.

Mehleb said in a press conference Monday evening that international election observers have yet to officially comment on the electoral process, but so far their feedback has been positive.

He also asserted that the Egyptian authorities facilitated the observers’ work throughout the day.

The Cabinet has not received any complaints about Monday’s voting, Mehleb claimed, adding that he followed the process from the Cabinet’s operations room. 

The prime minister said the Cabinet would submit its resignation following the elections, as stipulated in the Constitution.

MENA also reported on Monday evening that a representative from the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite channel was arrested today, according to the Northern Military Zone command.

The correspondent, whose name was not released, was reportedly arrested while using a satellite camera to report from the polling station at Ja’afar bin Abi Talib School.

8 pm: Sabbahi campaign denounces member’s referral to military prosecutor

Early Monday evening the Hamdeen Sabbahi campaign issued a statement condemning the arrest of one of its members while he was acting as an official election observer earlier in the day.

Ahmed Hanafi Abu Zeid, a member of the campaign’s legal committee, was allegedly trying to solve a dispute between a campaign delegate and security forces when he was assaulted, beaten, and arrested by military officers before finally being taken to the Warraq police station in Giza. He was then referred to military prosecution. 

The campaign’s statement condemned the decision to bring Abu Zeid’s case before a military, not civilian, prosecutor. 

Sabbahi expressed his “full support” for Abu Zeid, and the campaign stressed its “fundamental stand against the military trials of civilians.”

Earlier, the campaign held a press conference to report a number of electoral violations, including not allowing official delegates into polling stations to monitor the voting process, and campaigning outside polling stations in breach of the electoral silence period.

7 pm: Monufiya backs its men, say residents

The majority of residents in the Shebin al-Kom district of Monufiya came out to vote for Sisi on Monday. Turnout there appeared higher than in other Delta cities.

Wafaa Mohamed Abdel Salam of the Egypt Knights Party told Mada Masr that it’s no surprise, since Monufiya always stands in support of its own people.

Sisi’s grandfather is from the industrial area, which is also the birthplace of 2012 presidential candidate and Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq — as well as ousted President Hosni Mubarak himself, Abdel Salam said.

Monufiya has long been labeled “feloul” (remnants), a word used to describe figures from the former regime. In the 2012 election, Shafiq beat out Morsi in the governorate, despite losing the race nationally.

At a women’s polling station, the popular voting anthem “Boshret Kheir” played nonstop inside the substation as voters cast their ballots.

The judge overseeing the process said he was responsible for more than 6,000 voters, and by midday around 1,400 had already voted.

Women voters outnumbered men and there was a low turnout of youth, in keeping with trends across the country.

A large group of older women chanted, “Monufiya said its word, Sisi is its president.”

Amira Metwally, from the organizational committee of the Knights Party, said that Sisi can only change Egypt if everyone comes together and works toward the same goal.

“Anything can happen when the army, police and the people unite,” she said.

As for the dissolved National Democratic Party and fears that its members are making a comeback, Metwally said, “The NDP will not come back, and neither will the Muslim Brotherhood — if that happens, the Egyptian people will make another revolution.”

A village in Sharqiya called Vankalon is home to around 70,000 people, of which about 19,000 are registered to vote at four polling stations: two for men, and two women. The small village only had one campaign event, a Sisi conference organized by the families of the area themselves.

Around the area, people in buses cruised around blasting the pro-Sisi pop song “Teslam al-Ayadi” and “Boshret Kheir.”

Hamdy Toukhy, 52, said it was hard to choose which song he liked more.

“’Boshret Kheir’ is bringing us good, and ‘Teslam al-Ayady’ is what brought people together,” he mused.

Two judges overseeing the voting process said it was going smoothly so far and reported no problems.

Though it was difficult to find Sabbahi voters, one named Mustafa Mohamed, a 19-year-old student who works in a sweets shop, was intent on letting Mada Masr know that people were campaigning for Sisi during the electoral silence period by going around in buses and rallying for him with loud microphones, in violation of the law.

Sayed Fikry, a lawyer outside one polling station, said the vote was “correcting the course of January 25,” a view held by many to describe the June 30 protests and subsequent removal of Morsi from power.

The Brotherhood generally has a weak presence in this town, and in the last election, about 8,000 voted for Shafiq and only 1,000 for Morsi.

Amin Abdelhady, who works at the Al-Azhar Institute, said he also doesn’t see the Mubarak regime coming back. “It’s a new Egypt, without the Brotherhood or Mubarak.”

6 pm: Women outnumber men in Mahalla’s mediocre turnout

Voter turnout was mediocre on the first day of voting in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, amid conflicting reports that a bomb exploded in one polling station.

The international wire service Reuters first reported on the blast, but Gharbiya Governorate security chief General Osama Bedeir released a statement that the news was nothing more than a baseless rumor. He called on voters not to be frightened by these false allegations.

But security concerns did result in the relocation of one polling station in the village of Bassioun, near Mahalla City, according to the privately owned ONA news agency.

According to unnamed Gharbiya Governorate security sources, the polling station at the Kafr Gaafar Primary School was closed down and relocated to the Azhari Institute School, due to concerns that the high number of Muslim Brotherhood residents in the village could obstruct the voting process.

The lines outside polling stations in nearby Mahalla City were noticeably shorter than elsewhere in the country. Several voters blamed the low turnout on high temperatures and the fact that many city residents were still at work.

At the Baghl Restaurant, the cashier, who asked to remain anonymous, told Mada, “It doesn’t make a difference if I vote or not. I am not partaking in these elections, as the victory is a foregone conclusion. Almost everybody is voting for Sisi. There’s no reason for me to leave work early and waste my time in a queue.”

As has been consistently reported in other cities across Egypt, women far outnumbered men at the polls in Mahalla.

Many of these women were waving Egyptian flags and wearing laminated photos of Sisi around their necks. Several ululated as the waited to cast their ballots, while others held up their fingers in the victory salute, chanting, “Sisi is our hero” and “vote for Sisi the champion,” among other slogans.

Coming out of the Abdel Hay Khalil School, a young boy proudly held up his pinky finger and exclaimed, “I voted for Sisi.” When asked how old he was, the boy replied that he was 11 years old — well below the legal voting age.

He told Mada Masr that his name was Ahmed Saeed, adding, “I used my personal ID and my father’s driving license to vote.” He did not want to be photographed.

Other than this incident, voters claim they did not witness any violations or irregularities in voting, despite the prevalence of Sisi banners in front of polling stations and campaign posters plastered on school walls in violation of the electoral silence policy.

A teenage boy told Mada Masr that when he tore down one of the Sisi posters, he was mobbed by dozens of angry Sisi supporters, who beat and verbally assaulted him.

“Why did you tear down the poster of Sisi?” shouted a street vendor. “He’s our hero and the beloved of millions.”

A nearby fruit vendor declared, “Come get your peaches, today we are offering the Sisi special discount.” A female vendor next to him muttered, “May God cut short his life.”

Both Sisi and Sabbahi posters were defaced. Some of the Sisi posters had the word “deddak” (against you) spray painted on them, while others had red paint spattered on them, as if the field marshal had been sprayed with blood.

Anti-Sisi graffiti reading: “Vote for the pimp” appeared on many walls around the city, although on some walls Sisi supporters crossed out the word “pimp” and replaced it with the word “hero.”

5:30 pm: Violence in Giza, Minya and Kerdasa, while heat fells 17 voters

One police officer was killed and three others injured outside a polling station in Giza’s Al-Saff district early Monday evening, according to a source at the Interior Ministry.

The source said the officers were the target of a drive-by shooting.

Security forces clashed with Minya residents identified as Muslim Brotherhood supporters on Monday afternoon, according to a reporter on the scene.

The Interior Ministry said four people were arrested in the confrontation, bringing the total number of arrests on the first day of voting up to 46 nationwide.

In the aftermath of the deadly dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins at Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square on August 14, which reportedly left at least 1,000 people dead, Minya was crippled by a surge of violence against its mostly Coptic residents. The Interior Ministry blamed the attacks on Islamists.

Violence also broke out in Kerdasa when security forces dispersed Brotherhood protesters, who were accused of hurling rocks at voters waiting to cast their ballots, reported Al-Ahram. Police arrested 10 people.

On August 14, a brutal attack on the Kerdasa police station resulted in the murder of 11 officers stationed there.

Aside from clashes, voters also suffered from the heat on Monday. The Health Ministry, which said that 17 voters in 10 different governorates collapsed due to the high temperatures.

5 pm: Christians opt for Sisi in Shubra

In Shubra, a working-class neighborhood in Cairo, the majority of the Christian vote is going to Sisi in retaliation against what residents call the Brotherhood’s sectarianism.

Recent acts of sectarian violence committed during the Morsi administration have seemingly overshadowed the memory of the violence at Maspero in 2011, when military personnel killed 27 people during a protest organized by Coptic activists.

Rasha Fathy, an architect, said she was voting for Sisi today, and voted for Ahmed Shafiq in both rounds of the 2012 election.

“I chose Sisi because I want stability. Sisi has management experience,” she said. “He knows how to deal with crisis. We are in a crisis and we have a lot of foreign threats.”

According to Fathy, her choice is in line with that of many other Christians, who were traumatized by a wave of violence against Copts in 2012 and 2013, which intensified after Morsi’s ouster.

“A lot of people left the country recently” out of fear, Fathy said.

However, even if Sisi is elected, she doesn’t believe sectarianism will end soon. “There will have to be years of education and awareness,” Fathy said.

Straying from the flock is Osama Saafan, a sales manager who joined the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party shortly after the revolution. Saafan is going against the party line by voting for Sisi.

“We need someone to save the country and not think about themselves,” he said.

Saafan said he was sold on Sisi as soon as he announced his candidacy because “this is a man who chose the difficult way out.”

“He could have stayed in his job [as defense minister] and he would have eight years ahead of him. He chose the difficult road,” Saafan said. “He is a sincere man.”

Saafan said he left the FJP when he had enough of the party’s policies. He accused the party of mobilizing Morsi’s supporters to protest in favor of his administration’s policies, before they even knew what they were. He pulled out his phone and showed Mada Masr some of the text messages he received calling for protests in support of the Brotherhood.

Unlike Fathy and Saafan, Shubra resident Ramy Beshir, a student, is voting Sabbahi.

Beshir said he voted for the Nasserist in the first round of the 2012 election, and then boycotted the runoffs.

Sabbahi “is the closest to me and my political thinking,” Beshir said. “This is shared among a lot of the people of my age.”

While Beshir said he is not against Sisi, Sabbahi “is closer to the revolution, and I still believe in it.”

Mohamed Sawwah, a Ministry of Agriculture employee, is also voting for Sabbahi.

 “We want one of the people to rule. Enough with military rule,” Sawwah declared.

Although he admitted he hadn’t read much about Sabbahi’s campaign platform, he believed that “a civilian understands his fellow civilians better, and can give us more.”

The military is selfish, and sees itself as superior to civilians, Sawwah said, adding that “military rulers are dogmatic, and military life is in their blood.”

“We had military rulers say, ‘We did this and that for you,’ but this is their duty as presidents. They shouldn’t brag about it,” Sawwah said.

4:30 pm: National Alliance Supporting Legitimacy lauds boycott

The National Alliance Supporting Legitimacy issued a statement lauding Egyptians’ “wide response to calls for a boycott in the initial stages of a bloody presidential charade.” 

The alliance said it was boycotting in solidarity with the martyrs of the revolution, and to protect the rights of political detainees and those injured by security forces against the “terrorist military coup.”

By boycotting, the Egyptian people have exposed the perpetrators of the coup and its “misleading media,” and proved their allegiance to the January 25 revolution and its achievements as well as their determination to revive it, the statement claimed.

4 pm: Sabbahi campaign reports delegates arrested, “systematic violations”

According to a statement from the Justice Ministry’s operations room, more than 150 violations were documented so far, mostly to do with overcrowded stations and a slow voting process.

In the first report from its central operations room, the Sabbahi campaign reported a number of arrests from among its delegates, as well as difficulty in officially documenting violations.

Ahmed Hanafi Abu Zeid, a member of Sabbahi’s legal committee, was detained then released in the Warraq district of Giza. According to the campaign office, Abu Zeid was assaulted and beaten by security forces at a polling station there.

Shortly after, another member intervened and was subsequently referred to military prosecution. Ahmed Hanafi, a member of the campaign’s legal committee, had gone with the necessary documents to prove that Abu Zeid was an official delegate of the campaign.

Three more delegates were arrested, including Amr Hassanien in Tookh, Qalyubia, Salah Hassan Mohamed in Suez and Hussein Mohamed Fathy in Ismailia, according to the statement.

A report by Shayfeencom, an association for public observation and human rights, traced several violations nationwide, such as directing voters and propagating for Sisi inside polling stations.

In a press conference at the Sabbahi campaign headquarters, spokesperson Masoum Marzouk began by offering condolences for the Tamarod member who was killed in the early hours of Monday.

He then cited “grave violations that threaten the electoral process,” including impeding the work of officially registered delegates — among them lawyers — as well as arresting and attacking them.

He called on the state to bear the responsibility and “protect our supporters,” and urged the High Elections Commission to act on these violations.

“Some state institutions have started to panic because they’ve noticed that the youth are going to affect the results in favor of Sabbahi,” he claimed.

Continuing on an optimistic note, he said that around 3 million have voted so far, and called on the youth to come out in a strong show of support on the second day of voting on Tuesday. He called on those who boycotted to “vote the revolution into the presidency” by voting for Sabbahi.

“We believe that the votes by women and older people for Sisi have reached a limit, and the rest of the votes will go to Sabbahi,” he added.

In the report from its operations room, the campaign cited “systematic violations” by police and army officers which its delegates were impeded from documenting.

The campaign listed a number of electoral violations. In Abu Qurqas, Minya, there campaigning was ongoing despite the electoral silence decree, and an officer prevented the campaign’s delegate from reporting violations.

In Samalout, a police officer was reportedly directing voters. When delegates reported the violation to the voting committee, the officer denied this and said he was only helping. At another polling station in the same area, the judge overseeing the voting process rode in on a vehicle covered with Sisi posters.

Campaign delegates were also denied entry in some instances, and the report cited delayed openings of some stations, as well as the illegal distribution of banners and leaflets.

The Shayfeencom report also said that some observers were not allowed inside polling stations and were subjected to hostile treatment by security forces in governorates such as Port Said and Qalyubiya. 

Other observers in Sharqiya and Qalyubiya were insulted by security forces, Shayfeencom said.

Tents were also set up inside some schools in Port Said and Qena campaigning for Sisi.

The report said that some people were arrested inside polling stations in Beheira, and that the Shayfeencom observer was threatened with arrest.

Finally, in Ismalia, security was absent from one of the polling stations.

3 pm: Tamarod member killed, says group

A member of the Tamarod (Rebel) movement was killed Monday morning, allegedly by members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, according to a Tamarod statement.

Mohamed Fathy, who is also member of the Sisi campaign’s executive office, was killed at 4 am close to his home while working on documents needed for campaign observers.

“You will get retribution for Mohamed Fathy when you go to the ballot boxes. Mohamed was one of the good Nasserist youth. Mohamed dreamed of the the state of national independence and social justice. You have to achieve his dream, go and do not be afraid of anyone because we are stronger. Death in our lives is part of the daylight,” said Tamarod founder and leading Sisi campaign member Mahmoud Badr on his Facebook page.

Around 22 people were arrested across the country as they protested against the election. An Interior Ministry source told Mada Masr that seven people were arrested in Beni Suef, two in Minya, 12 in Alexandria and 11 in Assiut.

The head of Sabbahi’s campaign called on the Armed Forces and the Cabinet to comment on news reports that Sisi headed to an army facility after he cast his vote to follow the electoral process, rather than his campaign headquarters.

“We demand an immediate explanation from the Armed Forces and the prime minister around the news,” Hossam Mones said in a statement published on Facebook.

According to a statement issued by the Democratic Alliance, there is noticeable high female turnout at polling stations across the country this year, but a notable absence of voters under the age of 30.

The statement also added voting on Monday morning was marked by high numbers of military and police personnel, who worked together to create 200-meter security barricades surrounding most polling stations across the nation.

In some cases, elderly voters were given little support with the voting process, the statement continued.

The Democratic Alliance also noted that a number of campaign banners outside polling stations had not been removed, while loudspeakers attached to moving cars continued to trumpet nationalistic songs, both of which violate voting regulations.

The statement reported that skirmishes broke out between supporters of both candidates in the Sahel region and in the Suez, who clashed with demonstrators calling for a boycott. Various marches calling to boycott elections also took place in different parts of Giza as well as Fayoum.

A lack of assistance and privacy for people with disabilities was widespread, according to the statement. No procedural decisions were made to enable a voting process specific to people with disabilities, except for the visually impaired. In some voting stations, such as at Helwan University, committee staff said some of voters with disabilities were told they were ineligible to vote and were not provided any assistance.

In Ain Shams, a calm atmosphere prevailed in the stronghold of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood group. The area has been witnessing deadly confrontations between supporters of the group and residents in recent months, but there was a moderate turnout for Monday’s vote.

Amal Abdel Tawab, a 53-year-old housewife, said that that voting in this election is necessary “in order to protect Egypt from terrorism and those behind it.”

In the affluent Korba district in Heliopolis, an eastern Cairo suburb, voters enjoyed a carnivalesque atmosphere.

Giant speakers were blasting out June 30 nationalist songs outside one polling station. A man holding up two fingers to signify “victory” belly danced outside.

2 pm: Bombs defused in Kafr al-Sheikh, Fayoum

In Kafr al-Sheikh, security forces defused a bomb in the Dessouk train station, MENA reported.

The police checkpoint at the station received a report about an unidentified object in a bag, later discovered to contain an explosive device with a timer.

Train activity resumed shortly after it was halted and a security cordon was formed around the station, MENA said.

A bomb was also defused in front of the Mar Girgis Church in Fayoum, according to a reporter on the scene. In Beni Suef, a bomb was thrown at the Saint Paul’s Church, but no injuries were reported in either incident.

In the Minya village of Demsheer, a television truck was set ablaze, but none were injured, according to an eyewitness on the scene.

In Mansoura, security was tight near the Faculty of Arts campus of Mansoura University this morning as residents of the Nile Delta city turned out to vote.

According to a Mada Masr reporter, at 11:30 am, three polling stations were set up inside the barricaded square. Armed Forces personnel were searching bags and turning away journalists who didn’t carry permits from the High Elections Commission. On the nearby Galaa Street, vendors sold Egyptian flags as people waited in line to vote, snaking around the wall of a school.

Amid the festive atmosphere, a woman wearing the colors of the Egyptian flag and announced that she was voting for Sisi. “Listen carefully. The entire country is voting for Sisi. This is a revolution. It was not a coup, by God,” she said.

A group of women with children walked past the line of voters and held up pictures of the former army chief, chanting, “Sisi, Sisi, Sisi! He’s our love.”

A flag vendor walked up Galaa Street said that he was going to head to the polls a little later in the day, adding, “I’m for Sisi. He’s a real man.”

The owner of a juice store near Mansoura University said that his store was targeted and set on fire around 4 am this morning because he had pro-Sisi and anti-Morsi signs up for the last few days.

In Aswan, voter turn out was low, especially among young voters. Most voters’ ages ranged between 40-80.

Security was tight in the Upper Egypt governorate, with roads leading to polling stations completely blocked. Polling stations were secured with armored personnel carriers (APCs) and police trucks. Journalists without permits were not allowed to speak to voters, and filming without permission was also prohibited.

1 pm: Voters in Zagazig line up to the beat of a military band

In the village of Zagazig, voters who spoke to Mada Masr were largely in favor of Sisi. The mood was largely festive, with helicopters flying overhead. Outside one polling station at a secondary school for girls, a military band was on hand to entertain voters as they lined up.

In the village of Minya al-Amh, just outside the Zagazig Governorate, 47-year-old accountant Hesham Ayash said he came early in the day to avoid the stifling heat later on. He planned on voting for Sisi, and said he expected a 90 percent landslide win for the former defense minister.

Kamal Shedid, 59, said he was voting so “Egypt will win.”

“Egyptians have developed a political consciousness,” he said, as two military helicopters flew overhead. He voted for Morsi in the 2012 presidential election, now regrets it.

Shedid predicted a higher turnout than in the last election, with a sweeping 80 percent majority voting for Sisi.

When asked about those boycotting the vote, a young man interrupted Shedid to say that “they are traitors.” Shedid, however, replied that people can do what they want.

Upon entering the center of Zagazig, a large banner of Sisi hung from an archway that welcoming visitors to the town. There were also plenty of Sisi posters distributed by the Salafi Nour Party, who chose to back the field marshal as its candidate of choice. But the posters, like many in Cairo and other cities, had been splattered with red paint by the candidate’s detractors.

Outside the girls’ secondary school polling station, where the military band drummed loudly, the Department of Moral Affairs was present and filming the lines of voters alongside a sizeable media presence. Observers from both Sisi and Sabbahi’s campaigns were stationed inside the polling station. They said that voting was going smoothly, with no reports of violations.

Representatives of the “Campaign for the Nation’s Future” were also on hand, acting as election monitors as they did during the January referendum.

Noura Badboura from Manshiyet Abaza said she was voting for Sisi so he can “save the nation,” describing him as a courageous hero.

The sounds of ululations and chants of “Long live Egypt” were constant.

Nadia Gerges, 50, was there with her daughter Rene.

Rene denied that there were any fatalities during the forced dispersal of the Rabea el-Adaweya sit-in this past August, which was organized by Morsi supporters to demand his reinstatement, while her mother said with great optimism, “Today is the best day in the whole world, and now there will be peace forever.”

“We are all Egyptians, and we all worry about each other and love Egypt,” Nadia added.

Recalling Morsi’s time in power, Ahmed Farouk, a 52-year-old electrical engineer, said, “the Brotherhood are traitors and murderers. They were a black mark on Egypt’s history and that they didn’t know anything about governing. They tried to peddle religion, which they also didn’t know anything about, and traded in death.”

Sentiment against the Brotherhood has been vehemently negative since Mori was ousted, and today’s vote is seen as a stamp of endorsement for his removal from power the ensuing crackdown on his supporters.

Inside one of the sub-stations, the judge overseeing the voting process looked uninterested, and didn’t allow photos or interviews of him or voters.

One woman was not allowed to vote. Observers first said she was a journalist, then said that she was a Sabbahi supporter, and finally said she was a boycotter.

As a small convoy of masked policemen drove past, people chanted and threw chocolate at them.

12 pm: Hearts, ‘I love you’s’ don’t invalidate vote, says HEC head

Ballot cards marked with hearts or statements like “I love you” will be considered valid, HEC head Abdel Aziz Salman said, as long as they are clearly inside one of the candidate’s check boxes.

In a phone-in on Rola Kharsa’s talk show on the Sada al-Balad satellite channel, Salman also pointed out that the vote counts as long as the voter does not reveal his or her identity.

The Judges Club operations room issued a statement denying that the judge overseeing the polling station where Sisi cast his vote planted a kiss on the candidate when he met him.

After pictures circulated showing Sisi being kissed by someone in a suit, the operations room clarified that it was a picture of a civil society election monitor, not the judge.

Responding to complaints that Sisi’s campaign was distributing energy-saving light bulbs to potential voters, the High Elections Commission said in a statement Sunday night that the candidate would not be penalized.

According to the HEC, there was not enough evidence that Sisi or his official campaign had given direct orders to distribute those light bulbs. 

It also urged “the real distributors” to comply with electoral regulations and immediately halt all distribution.

Sisi’s official Facebook page posted an update reading: “Happening now: The youth committee of the Sisi campaign distributes energy-saving light bulbs in Gamaleyya, Hussein, Azhar, Sayeda Zeinab, Warraq and Imbaba as part of the ‘bel tawfeer’ (to conserve) initiative.”

Armed Forces personnel received orders not to enter polling stations under any circumstances, a military source told Al-Ahram, reiterating the military’s neutrality toward both candidates.

Military personnel securing the polling stations are instructed to help the elderly and those with special needs only until they arrive at the station’s entrance, Al-Ahram said.

11 am: Sabbahi, Mehleb, the pope and the grand mufti head to the polls

The Nasserist-oriented journalist and Popular Current Party founder  Hamdeen Sabbahi voted early on Monday at a polling station in the Mohandiseen district of Giza. 

Unlike other officials, who arrived with an entourage of tight security and were allowed to jump ahead of the winding lines outside polling stations, Sabbahi reportedly stood in line and waited for his turn to vote. One voter tweeted a picture of Sabbahi waiting in line in front of him.  

Sabbahi spoke to the media outside the polling station, saying that he hopes voter turnout will reach 30 million out of some 50 million eligible voters, calling on the youth to participate in the election, reported the privately owned Al-Badil.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb also went to vote at his polling station in the suburb of Maadi, while Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, voted at his designated polling station at the Mostafa Kamel school in Abbasseya, reported Al-Ahram. For security reasons, the pope’s polling station was kept secret.

At a polling station in 6 of October City, former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa was greeted with chants of “May God protect you,” as voters cheered for both the religious official and Sisi.

Meanwhile, current Grand Mufti Shawky Allam cast his ballot at a polling station in Nasr City, reported Al-Ahram. Voters reportedly made way for him to cut in line and head straight for the ballot box “out of respect.”

“Egypt is welcoming a new phase of its history that requires everyone to unite and work together toward its progress,” Allam told the media and other voters after marking his ballot paper, reported Al-Ahram.

10 am: Sisi, Mansour cast their ballots

Voters had already started lining up as polling stations opened across the country early on Monday.

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cast his ballot amid heightened security at a polling station in Heliopolis.

Voters waiting to cast their ballots welcomed the former defense minister with ululations and waving flags as they chanted “Sisi, you are my president,” according to the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.

Outgoing interim President Adly Mansour also voted at another polling station in Heliopolis.

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