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Egypt to prosecute some 54 million who boycotted Senate vote

August 26, 2020 GMT
Election officials wait for people to vote on the first day of the Senate elections inside a polling station in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Egyptians started voting on Tuesday for the Senate, the upper chamber of parliament that was revived as part of constitutional amendments approved in a referendum last year — an election that comes as the country faces an uptick in daily numbers of new coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Election officials wait for people to vote on the first day of the Senate elections inside a polling station in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Egyptians started voting on Tuesday for the Senate, the upper chamber of parliament that was revived as part of constitutional amendments approved in a referendum last year — an election that comes as the country faces an uptick in daily numbers of new coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s election commission said Wednesday it would refer to prosecutors about 54 million people who did not vote in elections earlier this month for two-thirds of the Senate, the upper and mainly powerless chamber of the country’s Parliament.

The development is unlikely to lead to actual trials as Egypt’s judiciary does not have the financial means needed to prosecute such a large majority of the voters.

Some 63 million voters were eligible to cast their ballots to choose 200 of the 300 Senate seats, but only 8.99 million, or 14.23%, took part in the Aug. 11-12 vote, according to the National Elections Authority. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi will choose the remaining 100 seats.

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The balloting was held amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the commission said it took all necessary measures so voters could cast their ballots.

Lasheen Ibrahim, the commission’s chairman, had vowed to enforce a law penalizing any boycotter with a fine of up to 500 Egyptian pounds ($32).

However, little attention was paid to his warning as similar have been issued in previous elections, apparently meant to boost turnout and with no real enforcement.

Many took to social media to criticize the decision, arguing that it’s impossible to prosecute around 53 million people. Others said it only shows the government wants to collect money by any means.

Writer Gamal Taha wrote on Facebook the threat could incite public anger since the Senate has only an advisory role and no legislative powers, unlike the House of Representatives, the lower chamber.

El-Sissi’s administration has championed the restoration of the Senate, approved part of constitutional amendments in a referendum last year to replaces the Shura Council, which was eliminated from the country’s 2014 constitution.