Military council removes Facebook presidential poll over fraudulent votes

Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has removed a presidential poll posted on its Facebook page since 19 June after Al-Masry Al-Youm exposed a scheme to inflate former Vice President Omar Suleiman's vote tally.

The SCAF poll, which asked participants to "vote" for the potential presidential candidate they prefer, officially ended on 19 July, but Facebook users could still vote on the council’s official Facebook page. Suleiman, former head of Egypt’s general intelligence, was leading the poll before it was removed.

Suleiman occupied seventh place with 3 percent of votes 12 days after the voting began, while Mohamed ElBaradei was the front-runner with 30 percent of the votes. However, as voting neared the official deadline on 19 July, the proportion of votes cast for Ayman Nour and Suleiman increased dramatically, and Suleiman ended in fourth place when the poll officially ended.

Since the poll ended, however, the proportion of votes for Suleiman has continued to increase. He is now ranked in first place, with 21 percent of total votes cast.

Al-Masry Al-Youm observed the jump in Suleiman's votes from Sunday to Tuesday and discovered it was the result of a scheme to employ youths to vote for Suleiman. In a coffee shop near Ahly football team headquarters in Nasr City, an Egyptian using the alias “Rafat”  was managing a group of 10-15 youths between the ages of 15 and 18. Using temporary email accounts, they were instructed to sign up for Facebook and vote for Suleiman.

Journalists from Al-Masry Al-Youm, posing as co-conspirators looking to profit from the scheme, got the group’s administrators to agree to grant them LE1 for each fraudulent vote they cast for Suleiman, and LE100 per 200 fraudulent email accounts. The accounts were to be created via sites specializing in temporary accounts that expire after 10 minutes.

At one point during the investigation, a 40-something-year-old woman was observed conversing with “Rafat.” She cautioned him with the words: “careful no one reveals to anyone what we’re doing.” From the conversation, it was clear that she was in charge of funding the operation. This was confirmed by a number of youths working there, who also said she directed another voting site at an apartment in Mohandessin. The participants alleged she is a close contact of Suleiman's.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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