A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Egypt Extends Presidential Election to Third Day Due to Low Turnout

In an extraordinary move, apparently driven by low turnout on the two days of the Egyptian Presidential elections, Egypt has extended the election for a third day.

After day one, it was announced that day two would be a public holiday, to enable workers to vote; after day two, the extension to a third day was announced. Although there was no clear rationale given, other than to allow persons who for residence reasons might need to travel from Cairo to their own hometowns to vote (some also cited extreme hot weather), both of these rationales suggest that the goal is a larger turnout.

Both Field Marshal Sisi's and Hamdeen Sabbahi's campaigns objected to the extension, though the Sisi objection may be raher pro forma.

In the 2012 Presidential runoff between Muhammad Morsi and Ahmad Shafiq, turnout was officially about 26 million, slightly more than in the first round and constituting a turnout of about 52%. Field Marshal Sisi, who is clearly seeking not just a win but a high turnout to legitimize his rise to power, has been quoted as saying he hoped for 40 million voters to turnout. A turnout below that of the 26 million who voted in he 2012 runoff would be read as a setback. It would imply the boycott by th Muslim Brotherhood and other groups is having an effect, despite threats of fines for not voting.

And that, presumably, is what is happening: many believe turnout is running well below 2012. Therefore, the electoral commission changed the rules and moved the goalposts late in the game.

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