Candidates spar as Egypt presidential polls near close
Published: 24th May 2012 19:16:52
Tensions have been rising between some of the main candidates in Egypt's presidential elections as polls near a close on the second day of voting.
Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq have traded accusations, saying false rumours are being spread that each is about to withdraw from the hotly contested race.
Other candidates have also been accused of breaking "election silence" rules.
Amid reports of a patchy turnout, polling was extended for an hour in Egpyt's first free presidential polls.
Polls will now close at 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT).
The elections pit Islamists against secularists, and revolutionaries against Mubarak-era ministers.
In all, 13 candidates are running. The front-runners are:
While voting appears to be continuing smoothly at polling stations across Egypt on the second and final day of voting, tensions are rising between the main candidates - particularly those competing for the same voters.
Although campaigning rules restrict them from giving interviews to Egyptian news outlets, they have invented dubious reasons to do so and have spoken to pan-Arab and international ones.
The former Arab League head, Amr Moussa described to BBC Arabic and others how "sinister rumours" were spread by the Ahmed Shafiq campaign that he was about to withdraw.
Mr Shafiq's spokesman then made a similar claim in reverse to the official news agency, Mena. He also complained about "lies" spread by Islamist groups.
On Wednesday, the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing complained about candidates "using the media to affect voters" in violation of the campaign silence law - at a news conference.
Minor violations outside polling stations have been reported to the Higher Presidential Election Commission by all sides.
Hosni Mubarak - whose 30-year rule was overthrown last February and who is on trial for ordering the killing of protesters - is said to be watching proceedings from hospital.
A row erupted between two of the main candidates for apparently spreading damaging rumours about each other.
In a BBC interview, Mr Moussa launched an angry attack on his rival Mr Shafiq - who was appointed prime minister in the dying days of Mr Mubarak's rule - saying he represented the ideas of the old regime.
Mr Moussa denied what he described as "sinister rumours" that he was about to withdraw from the race.
But in later interviews Mr Shafiq hit back, accusing Mr Moussa's campaigns of spreading similar rumours - and pointing out Mr Moussa's connections to the old regime. Mr Moussa served as a minister under Mubarak from 1991 to 2001.
Mr Shafiq, Mr Fotouh and Mr Mursi have all been accused of breaking rules requiring candidates keep silent on polling days and on Wednesday the election commission said it would be investigating such allegations.
Turnout appeared to vary across the country on Thursday, which authorities had declared a public holiday.
In Cairo, there were long queues at some polling stations but elsewhere, such as Alexandria and Suez, there were reports of slow voting.
We have faith in God that history will treat President Mubarak with justice”
Egypt's election commission estimated that about 50% of eligible voters had participated, reported official news agency Mena.
The military body that assumed presidential power in February 2011 - the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) - has promised a fair vote and civilian rule.
Fifty million people are eligible to vote, and preliminary results are expected over the weekend.
Until a new constitution is approved it is unclear what powers the president will have, prompting fears of friction with a military which seems determined to retain its powerful position.
NGOs and rights groups monitoring the election have reported some complaints, including illegally campaigning outside polling stations.
Meanwhile some young people in Cairo told the BBC they had doubts about the vote.
"Has the revolution accomplished all of its goals? No," said Dina Kassem.
"You know we still have so much to go like any other country. The French revolution took how many years? But you can see the fact of it today. And that's what we're hoping to bring to Egypt."
Another young voter, Assia, Krim, was less hopeful.
"Elections under a military regime are not elections. Elections under tanks, I'm sorry - they are not elections," she said.
Counting will begin as soon as polls close, and some individual polling stations are expected to announce results by Friday morning.
The results will then be collated and announced in full on Tuesday. No clear picture is likely to emerge until then.
A run-off vote is scheduled for 16 and 17 June if no candidate manages to get more than 50% of the votes.
The ruling military council, worried about potential post-election unrest, has sought to reassure Egyptians that it will be the voters themselves who decide who will be the next president.
The Arab Spring began last year in Tunisia, inspiring pro-democracy activists across the Arab world.
The period since Mr Mubarak was forced from power have been turbulent, with continued violent protests and a deteriorating economy.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Candidates spar as Egypt presidential polls near close [Online] (Updated 24th May 2012)
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