“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 us.
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 complicity.
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.”