Egypt started a ban on all activities of presidential campaigning dubbed “election silence” on Monday that will last for two days before the landmark voting kicks off on May 23-24.
According to the rules laid by the Supreme Presidential Election Commission, candidates are prohibited from any public activities that can influence the voters’ decisions before casting their ballots in the first presidential poll that follows the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak.
Media platforms are also subject to the ban. They are prohibited from airing any publicity advertisements for presidential candidates or conducting any interviews with them.
A runoff for the landmark polls will be held on June 16-17 if no single candidate wins an absolute majority. The country’s next president will be formally named on June 21.
The main contenders in the elections are former Arab League chief Amr Moussa; Islamist Abdul Muniem Abul Fotouh; Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi; last prime minister of Mubarak’s era Ahmed Shafiq and leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi.
Sketchy polls taken by a government-funded think tank and the cabinet’s research division show Mursi trailing behind moderate Islamist Abul Fotouh, Mussa, Shafiq and Sabbahi.
Mursi lost the expatriate vote in most countries, but received a boost on Sunday after the consulate in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah announced that he won with almost 27,000 votes, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper reported.
Most expatriate voters are registered in conservative Gulf countries and are expected to give Mursi a victory in the overseas vote. The full results for that vote have not been announced.
But the number of eligible voters abroad -- roughly 600,000 -- is insignificant compared with the 50.4 million voters in the country.
Earlier on Sunday, Mursi warned against any attempt to tamper with Egypt’s presidential poll as thousands of supporters rallied across the country on the last day of campaigning.
In the nighttime rally in Cairo, Mursi said anyone attempting to “revert (back to the old regime) or forge the people’s will” would be “trampled and burnt by popular anger.”
Similar rallies took place in more than a dozen cities around the country.
Mursi did not elaborate on who might forge the election, but vaguely mentioned loyalists of the former president, according to AFP.
The military, which took charge after Mubarak’s ouster, has pledged a fair election.
Although, Mursi said the military was still “loved” for not siding with Mubarak during the Jan. 25 uprising; yet, he told them that their role in a new constitution “must express the people’s will.”
The Brotherhood had clashed with the ruling generals after they refused to sack the government and allow the Islamist’s political arm headed by Mursi, the Freedom and Justice Party, to appoint a new one.
It accused the military of angling to remain in control even after a promised handover to the elected president by the end of June.
The Freedom and Justice Party dominated parliamentary and senate elections that ended in February this year, but analysts say it has lost support after a lackluster performance by its lawmakers.
(Additional writing by Abeer Tayel)