Egypt gave government workers a half-day off on Monday in an attempt to boost low turnout in the first legislative elections since a chamber dominated by Islamists was dissolved by a court ruling in 2012, but there was no sign of increased activity at polling stations. Monday is the second day of voting in 14 provinces, including Cairo’s twin city of Giza and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. Voting in Egypt’s other 13 provinces, including Cairo, will take place next month. Final results are scheduled to be announced in December and the 596-seat chamber is expected to hold its inaugural session later in the month, thus completing a three-phase political roadmap announced by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi when, as military chief, he ousted Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. The first two phases were drafting and adopting a new constitution by January 2014, replacing a charter mostly written by Morsi supporters and which had an Islamist slant. Presidential elections, which el-Sissi won last year, were the second stage.
The parliamentary elections are widely expected to result in a rubber-stamp assembly supportive of el-Sissi, who urged Egyptians to vote in a televised address Saturday. A low turnout would indicate growing disillusionment or distrust of the political system under his rule.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was quoted by the official Middle East News Agency as saying turnout in Sunday’s voting was between 15 and 16 percent. Some half-dozen judges interviewed by The Associated Press on Monday gave roughly the same figure. Ismail did not say what he based his figures on and there was no way to independently confirm them.
The figures given by officials, however, appeared to be much higher than the extensive coverage by local and regional TV news networks would suggest. State media has acknowledged that turnout was generally weak on Sunday.