A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, February 22, 2013

Copts, Others Criticize Egypt's Election Schedule

 Update: belatedly recognizing the gaffe, the Presidency is moving the first round up in order to avoid the Coptic feasts.

Yesterday's announcement of a four-stage (plus four runoffs!) Egyptian electoral schedule has raised eyebrows; it is far more unwieldy than even the last Parliamentary elections; voting would begin April 27-28 with the last round of runoffs not ending until June 26-27. One widespread criticism is that such long, stretched-out schedules, combined with a complex electoral system may deter participation; th8s criticism is often made by those who suspect the authorities may want to keep turnout down.

One predictable complaint is coming from Copts, who noted (as I did in my post yesterday), thaat the first weekend of voting coincides with Eastern Palm Sunday (April 28), with the runoff on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday (May 4 and 5). The first round of the elections include the governorates of Cairo, Beheira, Minya, Port Said, and North Sinai; of these, Cairo, Minya, and Beheira have appreciable Christian populations, so naturally,there is concern that the timing is intended to discourage Copts from voting.

At the very least, the timing seems another instance of the Morsi Administration's tin ear when it come to minority issues; if it isn't deliberate, it suggests a failure to note the religious holidays.

Ahram Online spells out the whole schedule:
The first round of voting will be on 27 and 28 April and will take place in Cairo, Beheira, El-Minya, Port Said and North Sinai. If runoffs are necessary, they will take place on 4 and 5 May. 
The second round will be on 15 and 16 May in Giza, Alexandria, Sohag, Beni Suef, Aswan, Suez, Red Sea and New Valley. If runoffs are necessary there, they will take place on 22 and 23 May. 
The third round will be on 2 and 3 June in Daqahliyah, Qaluibiya, Menufiya, Qena, Damietta, Luxor, Matrouh and South Sinai. If runoffs are necessary there, they will take place on 22 and 23 May.
The final round will be on 19 and 20 June in Sharqiya, Gharbiya, Assiut, Kafr El-Sheikh, Fayoum and Ismailia. If runoffs are necessary there, they will take place 26 and 27 June.

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