“We had issued very strict directives to our members not to break the [silence] period,” Amr Darrag, Secretary General of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Giza branch, told RFI”. “So far we haven’t got any reports of any party members really doing that,” he added.
Darrag explained that members understood that they would be disciplined by the organisation if they tried to manipulate the ballot.
The first day of voting passed relatively calmly with a few isolated incidents of violence. Shafiq, who’s seen as the military’s candidate, was chased away from one polling station by an angry crowd.
Many of the allegations of voter manipulation were directed at members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Shafiq. There were accusations of buying votes, influencing voters on their way into polling stations and incorrect information provided to illiterate voters, who use the candidates’ symbols to make their choice.
Darrag, however, claims that many of these reports resulted from television channels paying people to imitate Brotherhood members in order to jeopardise their campaign.
“We got a hold of these people and asked them, and it turned out they said that they got some money from some of the media,” he said. “We reported that to the police and they are going to take care of that,” Darrag added.
Display for Aboul Foutouh at press conference in Cairo
With an Egyptian electorate of 50 million it may be some time before there are reliable preliminary results. Despite this some candidates are already claiming an early victory.
After a press conference late on Wednesday night a spokesman for independent candidate Aboul Foutouh told RFI that they put themselves just ahead of the Brotherhood’s Moursi and Mubarak-era prime minister Shafiq.
“We have very positive indicators that the competition now on the ground after the first day is between Dr Abdel Moneim Aboul Foutouh, and Dr Mohamed Moursi and Mr Ahmed Shafiq,” Aboul Foutouh spokesman Ali El-Bahnasawy said.
When asked about the margin of this lead, El-Bahnasawy called it a “slight advance” based on exit polls conducted by 100,000 campaign volunteers. These figures are based on what he calls a “representative sample”.
The press conference mainly focused on alleged voter manipulation, as reported elsewhere. Aboul Foutouh’s camp also levelled this criticism at the Moursi and Shafiq camps.
El-Bahnasawy claims they received over 200 telephone calls about voters being “fooled” over the selection of symbols. Aboul Foutouh’s campaign uses the symbol of a horse, with Shafiq opting for a ladder and Moursi selecting a set of scales.
Based on their 13,000 observers, Aboul Foutouh’s spokesman calls the voter manipulation “widespread” and wants the electoral commission to intervene. Although he would not be drawn on whether they would call for this to be used as justification for annulling the result.
A line of men waiting to vote in the Mohandeseen district of Cairo
At polling stations visited by RFI on Wednesday there was a sense of excitement, but also calm, considered organisation. The police and army were present both inside and outside polling stations, particularly wary of journalists stoking too much discussion about which candidates people would vote for.
In the Boulaq Al-Dakrour district of Cairo, one of the poorest areas of the capital, voters waited patiently while the hustle and bustle of daily life continued around them.
Delivery driver Aboul El-Ela Mohamed Abu Serii said he would be voting for Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi. He described Sabahi as a moderate and having nothing to do with the Islamist movement.
A clearly religious man in his mid-60s, who did not want to be named, wearing a gallabeya and carrying sebha beads cast aside perceptions that the Muslim majority in Egypt would vote for Islamist candidates. “I’ll vote for anyone who’s not the Muslim Brotherhood, or Salafists,” he said.
Amr Samir, a marketing professional, who could be described as a revolutionary, would not be drawn on his choice. But described his selection as, “the candidate that is going to make Egypt strong again” and “that represents the revolution”. He would definitely not vote for Shafiq or Amr Moussa because, “they’re old men”.
Billboard for Ahmed Shafiq near Downtown Cairo
A man speaking good English, who interrupted us whilst conducting interviews, was quick to defend Shafiq. He said other candidates like the Muslim Brotherhood’s Moursi are unknown, without an established background. This man was worried that if Shafiq wins, the result will not be respected. “They’ll go to Tahrir Square - this is not democratic - if the people want Ahmed Shafiq, no need to make another revolution,” he exclaimed.
Over in the upper class Mohandeseen district of Cairo, one hijab wearing housewife said she would not disclose her choice. Speaking quickly, outside the polling station, she told RFI that her choice in the voting booth was between her and God. “It won’t make a difference for you to know if he’s an Islamist or not, the important thing is that now we have freedom and democracy and can choose whoever we want,” she added.
Banner for Hamdeen Sabahi in the Boulaq Al-Dakrour district of Cairo
Mrs Nagwa, a nurse, was still undecided. She was torn between Shariq or Moursi, saying she had changed her mind a number of times after listening to friends’ arguments.
Others were also still in doubt. But Yasser, who works in tourism and has been out of work since early last year, said Shafiq was his man for president. Because he was the leader of the air force and has “lots of political experience”.