Turnout remains low in Shura Council polls

Voter turnout remained low Monday at most polling stations as elections for the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of Parliament, continue for a second day.

Violent rain and flood warnings further lowered voter turnout in Sinai for the elections, which are scheduled to run in two phases the first on 29 and 30 January and the second on 14 and 15 February. Runoffs for the first stage will be held on 7 February and on 22 February for the second stage.

Election monitors reported violations during the process. Monitors from One World Foundation, an Egyptian NGO, said Monday that very few voters went to the polls in the morning.

The organization’s report said some stations opened later than scheduled because employees failed to arrive on time. It said candidates’ supporters campaigned outside polling units in violation of electoral rules, unfazed by the inclement weather in some constituencies.

The report said most campaign violations were committed by supporters of candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, the Salafi-oriented Nour Party and independent candidates.

The elections in the first stage are being held in 13 governorates: Cairo, Alexandria, Monufiya, Daqahlia, Damietta, Fayoum, Assiut, Qena, New Valley, North Sinai, South Sinai and Red Sea.

Two-thirds of the council’s 270 members are elected, and the rest are directly appointed by the head of state, currently Egypt’s ruling military council. The council has decided to wait to appoint the remaining members until after a new president is elected.

Under former President Hosni Mubarak, the council did not have a significant legislative role. It reviewed and commented on draft laws before referring them to the People’s Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. This limited role remained unchanged in the Interim Constitution issued in March.

But according to that declaration, both chambers of Parliament are tasked with the formation of the panel that will draft the country’s new constitution.

Islamist parties have dominated nearly 70 percent of People’s Assembly seats in elections that ended earlier this month. An alliance led by FJP gained 47 percent of seats, and the Salafi-oriented Nour Party won 23 percent.

Late Sunday, FJP announced that voter turnout for the Shura Council elections had not exceeded 10 percent.

Meanwhile, the Administrative Court in Cairo suspended list-based contests in Qena and Monufiya over incomplete candidate lists.

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