The Second Day
For some another day of voting takes Egypt forward, for others it is as aimless as their position in the long queues.
Bassem Samir of the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA) is watching the elections unfold on a monitor in his organization’s office in Giza, across the water from Tahrir. He has been preparing for this day for years, traveling to trainings, meetings and conferences around the world to bring tech tools and greater capacity to his growing team as they monitor the fairness of elections in Egypt. On the eve of the elections last November, a vote which resulted in the almost complete defeat of all opposition groups in Parliament and fed the unrest that erupted in January, his office was a major command center monitoring abuses at voting stations.
Today he is watching a story unfold that he and thousands of activists have been trying to write since 2005. For his office it ends with Egyptians going to safe polls to cast ballots, dip their fingers in ink and leave a history of voter bullying, corruption and powerlessness a little further behind. “The Egyptian people are democratizing their state” he observes, “Still, there are some problems, delivering the ballot boxes, starting the count.”
The most populace country in the Arab world has gone to the polls to vote in an election that has either gone very smoothly or very badly, depending on how you look at it. Lines were certainly discouraging with voters tweeting reports of queues as long as eight hours in Heliopolis and Helwan.The Egyptian people are democratizing their state”
But in an election with such high turnout, pressure on the election volunteers and organizers is expected. Samir bristles at the suggestion that everyone who wants to vote will get to, “This is not confirmed yet. Many people are still trying to vote.” He doesn’t give details but his reaction is not positive about the apparent success of the Islamist parties, “The Islamist parties are committing violations, they have been abusing the laws, but thankfully no blood has been shed so far.”
David D. Kirkpatrick reported for The New York Times that the voting even on Day 1 was an ”apparent success” surprising even “the voters themselves”. Meanwhile Eric Trager reported for The New Republic a much more chaotic picture of ballots arriving late at approximately 900 polling stations resulting, in some cases, in angry voters holding judicial monitors hostage when ballots failed to arrive at all.
Trager reported some candidates scrambling at the 11th hour to correct their campaign literature when the numerical ballot placements they were given prior to the election, and subsequently advertised, were different from their current placements. Back to the New York Times version of the day: no reports of attacks on polling places or stolen ballot boxes.
So today’s chapter focused on getting a record breaking number of people in and safely out of voting stations all over the country in a three phase election lasting nearly a month. Analyses of what comes next are as diverse as the experiences of today. For some the whole revolution to date has been a near total victory for Islamist parties, for others, it was only one of many steps down a long road, even if only made significant by how much more poorly and violently it could have gone.