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Polls close amid low turnout in Egypt presidential vote

By Salma Abdelaziz. Reza Sayah and Dina Amer, CNN
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Polls closed in presidential election amid low turnout
  • NEW: Even an extra day of voting did not boost turnout
  • Human Rights Watch says past crackdowns undermined elections
  • Both candidates' campaigns objected to another day of voting

Egyptians, do you plan to vote in the presidential election? Tell us why or why not.

(CNN) -- Polls finally closed in Egypt's presidential election Wednesday, and workers have started to count the ballots, according to Egyptian state media.

An extra day of voting was added to boost turnout, but it may have done little, according to CNN crews who witnessed no lines at polling places throughout Cairo.

The election, initially scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, pit former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi against Hamdeen Sabahy.

The election commission extended the voting saying people living far from where they are registered need to return to vote, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

No numbers have been released, but the move came after TV hosts had openly criticized voters for not participating.

Both Candidates had criticized the extra day of voting and had filed complaints.

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"We strongly denounce the (election commission's) decision to extend voting another day. Extending the voting period for no real plausible reason will open the door to possible vote violations and rigging," said Hussein Abdel Ghany, a top adviser to Sabahy.

Sabahy's campaign announced Wednesday that it's withdrawing its delegates who observe the polls because they have been arrested or assaulted:

"In the past 48 hours we were subjected to a wide range of abuses, assaults and violations. These include preventing campaign delegates from entering the polling stations, and assaulting and arresting them," it said in a statement.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb had even declared Tuesday a public holiday "in compliance to citizens' wishes," state TV reported. The decision was thought to be a move to increase turnout.

Human Rights Watch said Egypt's 10-month-long crackdown on the opposition undermined the fairness of the presidential elections.

"The mass arrests of thousands of political dissidents, whether Islamist or secular, has all but shut down the political arena and stripped these elections of real meaning," the group's Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said in a statement Wednesday.

The election was called because President Mohamed Morsy was removed from power in July in a popular military coup. Al-Sisi, who was army chief at the time, stepped down from his military post this year to run for president.

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