Run-offs update: Football, religion and business in Tanta’s run-offs

Tanta–Low voter turnout marked election run-offs in the Delta region’s city of Tanta on Sunday while football, religion and business dominated the political discourse.

“Voter turnout was much higher during the first round of elections,” a voter told Al-Masry Al-Youm outside a polling station in Tanta. “The winner will be whoever the NDP wants because all the candidates belong to the same party.”

Four candidates, three of whom hail from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), were slated to partake in the run-offs. Tanta’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate announced his official withdrawal, alleging widespread vote-rigging during the first round of elections that took place on 28 November.

Professional seat candidates are NDP Ahmad Shobeir and NDP Yasser al-Gindi. Workers’ seat candidates are NDP Mohamed Eraiby and MB Sayyed Askar. Shobeir and Askar were elected to parliament in 2005. This year's elections, however, will guarantee NDP control of both professional and workers’ seats in Tanta.

Shobeir, a celebrated football star, TV sports presenter, and former vice president of the Egyptian Football Association, is competing against businessman Yasser al-Gindi. Although al-Gindi is a newcomer to politics with no previous parliament experience, he managed to win 10,950 votes during the first election round; Shobeir won 7803 votes.

A skirmish between supporters of Shobeir and al-Gindi reportedly occured at 10AM. No known instances of violence took place in the city since then. In related developments, five campaigners were reportedly injured at about 2PM in inter-NDP clashes that took place in Birma, a town located 10km north of Tanta.

Both Shobeir and al-Gindi are accused of ballot-buying and busing-in voters. Al-Masry Al-Youm saw their campaigners of each distribute meal boxes that featured candidates’ photos. Eraiby’s voters were also seen riding special buses, and his posters covered those vehicles.

Controversies surrounding Shobeir may have affected his popularity among Tanta voters. His parliamentary immunity was temporarily suspended in order for him to testify before the General Prosecutor regarding charges that Mortada Mansour, head of the Zamalek Club, leveled against him. Mansour claims that Shobeir took part in a sex scandal, lewdness, and the use of foul language.

The withdrawal of the Muslim Brotherhood's Askar guaranteed NDP's Eraiby a place in the upcoming parliament in the workers’ seat. Eraiby, a real estate company chairman, won 8964 votes on 28 November; Askar won 9959 votes.

Despite Askar's official withdrawal, numerous voters reportedly continued to cast ballots with his name.

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