Inside Egyptian elections' polling stations
CAIRO -- As Egyptians started voting for their first elected president since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak last year, millions of citizens are happily lining outside polling stations in the steaming heat in order to fulfill a lifelong dream.
With temperatures reaching as high as 95 degrees, the Ministry of Health announced Wednesday afternoon, 13 voters were transferred to hospitals as a result of standing under the blazing sun or enduring pushing and shoving outside polling stations.
But none of the discomfort accompanying this historic election, which continues Thursday, is deterring voters.
"Two years ago, I'd have traded my whole life to be allowed and elect a president, let alone stand under the sun for few hours waiting to cast my vote," Ahmed Magued, a 22-year-old law student said. "I've been waiting to vote for more than an hour with my father, who's 56, but having a say on the future of our country is worth all the wait and effort."
Thousands of public schools have been turned to heavily guarded polling stations, with each school divided into sub-offices where citizens cast their ballots. The nature and behavior of voters was notably different depending on neighborhoods. In richer communities, they appeared more decided and aware of the electoral process, although a mix-up in the register numbers of some voters in the area of Nasr City in Cairo needed a bit of untangling.
A young man sitting inside a sub-office of a polling station and carrying an iPad was asked to help voters identify their registration numbers, many of which were subject to change only hours before the vote.
"I know I shouldn't be saying this, but I was asked to help out with my iPad. Technically, I shouldn't be here as I'm campaigning for one of the candidates," the young guy inside the polling station whispered to some of the voters, epitomizing the Egyptian nature of moving along and making do.
Disabled and older voters asked supervising judges for help. "I want to vote for the horse" shouted an old man, referring to the symbol on the ballot for liberal Islamist candidate Abdel Monem Aboul Fotouh.
Violations were spotted outside a few polling stations. In poorer areas and outside Cairo, some candidates' campaigners were spotted trying to influence voters or even bribe them.
The National Council for Human Rights announced that it received 50 complaints of violations of electoral laws and forwarded 13 of them to the Supreme Electoral Committee. Voting was originally scheduled to last from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., but was extended an hour due to the large turnout.
Results of the first round will be announced on May, 29. If no candidate reaches more than 50% of the votes, a runoff between the two front-runners will be held June 16-17.
-- Amro Hassan
Photo: Egyptian voters line up outside at a polling station on Wednesday. Credit: Amr Nabil / Associated Press