Egypt pushes for higher turnout on second day of parliamentary polls

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Cairo (dpa) – Small numbers of Egyptians are turning out to vote Monday, the second day of long-delayed parliamentary election, amid attempts by authorities to boost low voter numbers, local media reported.

Footage on local TV stations showed several polling stations almost empty nearly three hours after the balloting began in 14 of the country’s 27 governorates, where the first round of the election is being conducted during two consecutive days.

Polls are to close at 9 pm (1900 GMT).

The government has cut working hours for its workers on Monday by half in a bid to encourage higher turnout for the second day of voting in Egypt’s first parliamentary elections in more than three years.

Hany al-Messiry, the governor of Alexandria, which is Egypt’s second-biggest city, has said that public transport in the city will be free of charge for the second half of Monday to encourage potential voters to go to polls, state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported online.

State and private TV stations loyal to the government Monday have also intensified their calls for potential voters to cast their ballots.

Their coverage of the balloting has been interrupted with patriotic songs urging the voters to “participate in making the future of the country.”

The Election Commission reportedly threatened voters refraining from casting ballots with a fine of 500 Egyptian pounds (60 dollars).

“I’ve only come to vote after I heard about this fine,” Asmaa Ali told al-Ahram at a polling station in Giza near Cairo.

Monitors and local media reported a weak turnout during the first day of polling Sunday. Observers also reported that many potential young voters say they are too apathetic and disillusioned with the government’s policy to bother with voting.

No official figures are yet available on the voter turnout.

Candidates supporting President Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi are expected to make big wins in the two-phase polls, Egypt’s first since the army in 2013, then led by al-Sissi, deposed president Mohammed Morsi following street protests against the Islamist leader’s rule.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is now outlawed in Egypt.

But Islamist parties have called on their backers to boycott elections, saying they are undemocratic.

About 27.4 million Egyptians are eligible to vote in the first round of polling. The second phase is due to begin next month and run through December.

The number of seats up for grabs in the first round is 286, contested by 2,573 candidates including 112 women.

Final official results of this round are expected to be announced on October 30.

The vote is the third and last step in an army-backed transition plan announced following Morsi’s overthrow.

The two other steps were writing a new constitution and holding a presidential election.

Under a 2014 constitution, the parliament has vast powers including the right to impeach the president and call for early presidential elections.

However, the coming assembly with a five-year term is unlikely to pose a serious challenge to al-Sissi.

In 2012, Egypt’s top court dissolved the Islamist-led legislature, saying it had been elected using faulty rules.

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