A judge tells of his frustration

It is 3pm: Hani Abd al-Wahab and his fellow judges have had to suspend polling in the face of efforts by police to prevent voters from casting their ballots in Egypt's elections.

    Police blocked the street to keep voters from the polling centre

    "It's absolutely gutting. They won't let anybody vote," said the

    judge from a polling station in al-Nahda al-Haditha (the Modern

    Renaissance) school on Saturday.

    After counting the first round of polling last week in the

    rural town of Kafr al-Dawar, north of Cairo, the candidate from the

    opposition Muslim Brotherhood commanded a healthy lead over his

    ruling party rival.

    The country's respected Judges' Syndicate issued a statement

    accusing the security forces of barring access to polling stations

    during Saturday's second phase runoffs, and demanded that the elections should be

    annulled in several constituencies.

    Judge Abd al-Wahab gave an account of his day:

    7am: I arrive at the polling centre with the other

    judges. Police had already blocked one end of the street that runs in

    front of the school. Three women slipped through the cordon behind

    us: They wanted to vote and knew that police would prevent them. 

    8am: The three women cast their votes, as do two

    representatives for the candidates. 

    8.10am: We are informed that police are preventing voters

    from taking part in the elections.

    8.15am: We go outside to check the situation. Police forces

    had blocked off the other side of the street after our arrival.

    Nobody can reach the school.

    8.20am: We appear to have convinced the police to let some

    voters through. Then I see a man in civilian clothes, but obviously

    from the police, pulling out a sword. Another policeman steps in. A

    masquerade carefully crafted to show that the police is protecting


    9am Kafr al-Dawar electoral commission chairman Mahmud

    al-Ghul tells me he will personally come to solve the situation

    after I call him for the second time. 

    11am: The first stone hits the school, thrown from a

    neighbouring rooftop. The men vandalising the school are acting in

    total impunity with the police looking on. This is evidence of their


    1pm: Several thugs penetrate inside the school, break a

    few tables and tear out the plumbing. 

    2pm: I call the chairman of the electoral commission

    again, in vain. We decide to file a complaint with Mahmud al-Ghul.

    2.10pm: As another bottle shatters upon landing in the

    school, the headmaster screams: 'What are you doing to my school?'

    3pm: I still have only five ballots inside my box, out of

    the 900 registered on the list that sits in front of me. It's

    absolutely gutting - they won't let anybody vote on Saturday. It's

    absurd to be stuck here. We've decided to stop supervising the

    polling. There's no way."



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