By Salma Abdallah
Egypt’s presidency has decided to ease curfew hours imposed in some parts of North Sinai on election days to allow residents to cast their ballots in the parliamentary elections.
The Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) announced that the curfew was being decreased by four hours, starting at 11pm instead of 7pm, and ending at 6am in North Sinai.
The second phase of the parliamentary elections takes place on Sunday and Monday in 13 governorates, including North Sinai. The first phase of the elections was held in 14 governorates in October.
Last October, the curfew imposed in North Sinai was extended for another three months by presidential decree.
The authorities had imposed a limited state of emergency in selected areas of North Sinai in October 2014 as part of heightened counter-insurgency measures. The decision came in the wake of militant attacks that left at least 30 security personnel dead. Since then, the curfew has been renewed on a regular three-month basis.
Meanwhile, independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm’s Sinai correspondent
Ahmed Abou Deraa was reportedly arrested while covering the elections in a school in the city of Al-Arish, North Sinai.
Al-Masry Al-Youm journalist Wael Mamdouh told Daily News Egypt that Abou Deraa, along with other journalists, asked a police officer if they could take a photograph of the school.
“The officer took their IDs to obtain permission from his supervisor, who ordered him to detain Abou Deraa and release the rest,” said Mamdouh.
Abou Deraa’s last contact with his colleagues was at 6pm, when he informed them he was waiting for a military vehicle to take him away.
The award-winning journalist was previously arrested in September 2013 at a military base after he went there to check on an injured relative who was arrested during a raid in the Sinai village of Muqat’a. He was accused of intentionally spreading false information on the military.
The first day of the elections in North Sinai witnessed a medium level of participation, according to Sanaa Gelbana, a resident of Al-Arish city, who was a member in the former National Democratic Party (NDP).
“Putting the situation in Sinai into consideration, we can find that the participation rates in the elections are neither low nor high, they are average,” Gelbana told Daily News Egypt.
“The numbers are expected to increase in the afternoon, as people will feel safer after they observe the solid security procedures,” said Gelbana.
Sheikh Khaled Arafat, a member of the Nasserist Al-Karama Party in North Sinai, told Daily News Egypt that the participation in is low. “We do not know if the participation will increase in the afternoon and tomorrow, or if it will continue as is.”
“Some people did not participate because they are afraid, some do not care, while others are objecting the situation in Sinai,” said Arafat.
The Egyptian authorities have evacuated residents and demolished houses in certain areas of North Sinai as part of their efforts to combat terrorism. “People are questioning whether it is a war on terror or a war on Sinai,” said Arafat.
Public figures who previously represented the National Democratic Party in North Sinai are running in the current elections, according to Arafat. “People do not feel the difference and they are saying that whoever the security [forces] want to win will win.”
There are over 230,000 eligible voters in North Sinai, with a total of 49 polling stations and 104 sub-committees. Thirty-seven candidates are running for five seats, distributed over four electoral constituencies; Al-Arish, Sheikh Zayed and Rafah, Ber El-Abd and Central Sinai.