1820 GMT: There are reports that port workers in Suez have stopped a ship with seven tons of tear gas among its cargo. There are fewer details on where the product has been manufactured, but reports indicate it was sent from the US, the reports say. So far, only Ahram has the story.
There have been claims that hundreds of tons of tear gas have arrived in Egypt on ships in the past few weeks, but none have been fully verified.
1900 GMT: As voting ends in Egypt, reports indicate that Tahrir Square is slowly turning into a tent city again. So far, there are virtually no reports of serious violence during the first day of an election process that will not end until next year. Meanwhile, former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called the elections "the beginning of a new era in Egypt".
1843 GMT: Some of the symbols on ballot papers for candidates in Egypt's first election are beyond hilarious. There's a tractor, a cannon, a tank, a vacuum cleaner, a space shuttle and even a cooking range. The winners, however, are toothbrush and blender.
Don't believe us?:
Reports from our representatives confirm that, in most election committees, there is a heavy turnout for voting, since the early morning. Indeed, queues in front of some such committees to extended over a whole kilometre, reflecting the desire of the Egyptian people to effectively complete this important stage in the history of Egypt.
Second: The Legal Dimension
Up till this hour, the electoral process has moved smoothly, in a satisfactory manner, in all constituencies. However, some election committees delayed the start of their activities because voting forms were not available as yet. Nevertheless, judges were in the polling stations already. The central control room reported this in a limited number of elections committees, in the entire first phase.
Third: The Security Situation
No reports were received regarding excesses by security forces or acts of bullying or violence near the polling stations, with the exception of some attempts which were promptly dealt with by the military and police forces as well as popular committees. This is clear confirmation that the people can protect their own right to vote and make their voices heard. Additionally, the massive turnout of voters was a strong bulwark against any abuse by any parties. Only one case of violence was reported in Assiut (Upper Egypt) where a candidate – excluded for being one of the remnants of the previous regime – started some bullying action, but was quickly under control.
Fourth: The Judges’ Role
It was noted that the judges were all set in their allocated places in the electoral polling stations, since the early morning, and even before the start of the electoral process. They played a significant role in facilitating the vote of the electorate and overcoming obstacles faced by representatives, which confirms their absolute willingness to go through these elections in a fair and transparent manner.
Fifth: Media Performance
Some TV channels still launch campaigns directed against the candidate lists of the Democratic Alliance and Freedom and Justice Party, which violates the norms and honour of the press and the whole profession. Some even went farther, mocking the overwhelming turnout by citizens for the most important elections in the history of the Egyptian people. But we believe this not surprising, especially as these channels are owned by businessmen who have a ‘special’ position regarding this homeland’s current democratic transformation.
reports from Assiut:
More crowds joining Tahrir sit-in now than earlier. Four of random five protesters I asked voted or will vote. Hint hint to the boycotters.
...one of the most significant governorates in the Upper Egypt region, that there appeared to be an exceptionally high turnout by the standards of the country's previous votes. Women were turning out in high numbers, unusual for such a conservative region. High numbers of Coptic Christians were also coming out to cast their ballots.
Here is another picture from Assiut of voters [h/t Lauren Bohn]:
#Assiut female voter: Here in Upper #Egypt, we vote for our elders. I have no idea who these new comers are and they're not getting my vote
#Assiut male voter: Today's high voter turnout shows just how much the people in #Tahrir don't represent us and if they cared, they'd vote
source: pm ganzouri met w SCAF & discussed formation of civilian council to help lead egypt's transition 2 democracy w SCAF
formation of civilian council alongside SCAF wud b another victory for #Tahrir protestors wrestling power away from generals
Egyptians are continuing to exercise their right to vote. In some places, voting lines are extremely long, but people are staying put. Here's a picture from Tura, near Cairo [h/t ahauslohner]:
Election observer says they expect any violence, vote buying, fraud, to occur between 3-7pm, as people get tired and frustrated.
Reports of vote buying, 50LE up front, 50LE after confirmation via cell phone picture of ballot. Votes are cheap here.
For context, 50LE is about $8. The future of #Egypt for less than $20 a vote.
En route to Dar as Salam, a more 'sha3by' area of Cairo. Lower or middle class, but family homes, with state university students.
At Gezira school station in Dar as-Salam. Talking with some women who have been standing in line for a few hours. They're excited to vote
Quite the queue, ordered chaos. The older women have chairs and younger are lined up along the curb in the exhaust from passing cars
Talking w/ Ibrahim Ali from Freedom and Justice party, local representative. Thinks elections have gone very well so far. Mafish mashakel.
Ibrahim from the Ikhwan believes the elections to be an excellent thing for #Egypt, the will of the people will certainly come through.
The adherence to party lines with the Ikhwan is incredibly disciplined.
The Ikhwan confidence in the election outcomes is palpable, bordering on serenity. The candidates clearly feel this is their time.
Outside the polling place in Dar es Salam, there are at least five men and women wearing sashes from The Ikhwan--notably not the FJP party
Anyone who speaks with me is immediately shadowed by a sash-wearing minder, asking why I'm here and what I'm interested in.
1345 GMT: Rawya Rageh of Al Jazeera in Cairo reports that foreign observers have not seen flagrant violations during the elections so far. At the same time, there are few reports of violence during the elections and none are serious which is another good sign.
1315 GMT: There are more and more reports of election day irregularities, including but not limited to political parties campaigning outside polling stations. Tweets from Egypt paint contrasting pictures of how the vote is going:
Ben Wedeman of CNN tweets:
Met man waiting to vote with his 7-year old son, Shadi. Said he wanted son to be there because the vote was for his future.
Really impressed at seriousness with which most voters are approaching #Egypt elections. In Mubarak's days elections were total farce.
Curious to see how #Saudi TV covers #Egypt elections. Men voting. Women voting. Everyone voting.
Evan Hill of Al Jazeera:
Free Egyptians organizer told me there are 5k polling places in Alexandria governorate, and she thinks 6 FJP per poll. 30,000 workers.
We're hearing that the FJP is getting legal challenges across the country for its election-day campaigning activity.
Getting the sense that Brotherhood/FJP has gone for the knockout blow. This is their big chance and they've put everything into it.
Freelance journalist Jasmine Elnadeem:
I didn't vote, no papers are there yet, and all my family didn't vote, no fucking papers in schools.
By the way we tried many times to call the numbers on #twitter to compalin that we cant vote but it was not available
90 % of polls opened on time
some delay as a result of judges getting lost not know where to go cars broke down etc
no reports of any security or violence reported so far
some delays were because papers ballots boxes did not arrive on time
judges will be responsible for securing locking and closing all polling stations tonight at 7p until tomorrows reopening
only polling stations that opened late will be extended today. All others close at 7p
reports of a polling station in Assiyut being overrun and judge held are only reports at this stage
all judges have reported to polling stations, yes some were late but now all running
we have not heard of any impact of Tahrir protests on any of downtown cairo polling stations
Its up 2 General Prosecutor 2 decide whether it fines people 4 not voting-penalty is $80-We will report who doesnt vote
HEC does not believe text messages that advertise campaigns violates the ban on campaigning in the final 48 hours b4 vote
violations expected but it's all proportional. Voter turnout high and has surprised us (but no numbers yet)
1200 GMT: Twitter, Facebook and other social media are going nuts over the percentage of votes parties are expected to receive. Even though polling is ongoing, there are claims being made by both the Egyptian people as well as political parties - sometimes citing exact numbers - as to how many votes each party expects to get in each locality, as if somehow they've already ran opinion polls. We would publish some of them, but there are too many and we'd wait for some more concrete exit polls for that, but in the meantime, it has to be mentioned - part of Egypt is excited.
1030 GMT: There are more reports of irregularities so far. Meanwhile, freelance journalist Holly Pickett tweets from Alexandria about the positive aspects of the vote so far:
This #egyelection feels so different than 2010, when reports of ballot box stuffing and buying votes were common. #Alex
Some irregularities still may surface, but this election so far seems more transparent and legal than previous #egyelections. #Alex
The Financial Times' Borzou Daraghi tweets:
34 yo banker said she considered boycott but ultimately voted. "We've been going through a lot of mess to get this day."
in village of Garfes, Fayoum, 68-year-old man on crutches drags himself up 2 flights of stairs 2 vote "4 best of country"; moving
1010 GMT: Claims have circulated all morning of parties illegally handing out flyers to waiting voters --- an image from Alexandria:
1000 GMT: The crowd of women waiting to vote in Heliopolis this morning:
0820 GMT: The narrative continues --- lines of up to eight blocks to vote, problems in some locations with lack of ballot papers and officials not arriving to open the polling stations, allegations of political parties continuing to lobby voters just outside the stations.
Al-Masry Al-Youm posts "leaked" official ballots from the Red Sea and Fayoum governorates, obtained on Sunday, claiming they were filled with names of dead voters. A security source said the ballots would not affect the process because of monitoring at the polling stations.
0620 GMT: Polls opened 20 minutes ago. Long lines are reported at polling stations that are open, but there are also reports of some stations still closed, probably because of late arrival of ballot papers, and irregularities with parties still campaigning.
0610 GMT: Voting begins today for the first post-Mubarak Parliament. It will be a long process, with the balloting for the lower house taking place over the next few weeks, and voting for the upper house in January. It is also an uncertain process: there have been debates among opposition groups and activists over a boycott, and last week's violence cast a shadow over any notion of political resolution.
The BBC offers a basic guide to the parties contesting the elections, and The Guardian has a beginner's primer and an interactive guide to parties. The Arabist blog has a special Elections page, with this chart of the parties and their general positions:
ELECTIONS TIMETABLE (from Reuters)
LOWER HOUSE (PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY) VOTE:
* November 28-29 - The first stage of the parliamentary election kicks off in nine provinces including Cairo, Port Said, Alexandria, and Assiyut in the south. Run-off votes for the first stage, where no candidate wins an absolute majority, will be held on December 5-6.
* December 14-15 - The second round starts in nine other provinces, including Beni Suef, Ismailia, Suez and Sohag. The run-off vote will be held on December 21-22.
* January 3-4 - The third and final stage of the vote for the lower house takes place in the last nine governorates, including al-Gharbiya, the heart of Egypt's Nile Delta where votes have traditionally been heated, North and South Sinai, and others. The run-off vote will be held on January 10-11.
UPPER HOUSE (SHURA ASSEMBLY) VOTE:
* January 29 - The first stage of the vote for the upper house kicks off in the same provinces as in the first round for the lower house. The run-off vote will be held on February 5.
* February 14 - Second-stage of the vote, with the run-off vote held on February 21.
* March 4 - Third and final stage of the vote, with the run-off vote held on March 11.