Egypt gets ready to vote

28 November 2011

Cairo and Alexandria citizens eligible to vote, but many intend to abstain

Egyptians will go to the polls on 28 November in the first parliamentary elections since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The first round of elections will take place on 28 November for residents of the major urban areas of Cairo and Alexandria. Should any one party fail to gain a majority, a run-off election will take place seven days later.

Voting will take place on 14 December for residents of Giza, Suez and the upper Egypt cities of Aswan and Sohag. The final round will be held on 3 January for the whole of the Sinai peninsula, western desert and parts of the Nile delta.

However, many Egyptians will be abstaining from the elections in protest against the interim government headed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which was handed power by the outgoing president. Because the power was granted by Hosni Mubarak, many Egyptians are sceptical that the elections will be free and fair.

Protesters continue to congregate in Tahrir Square and engage in heated debates on the necessity of disbanding the SCAF-led government in favour of a civilian council ahead of the elections to ensure that they are free and fair.

“I want [Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein ] Tantawi to stay. I will vote,” says one lady from Cairo. “I will vote,” says another Egyptian. “Elections will be better than what we have now.”

Others disagree. “Tantawi is Mubarak’s right arm. How will it be fair?” asks a protester. Leaflets calling for a boycott of the elections circulate Tahrir Square. “Ten months ago I wanted to vote. Now I will not vote,” due to continuing presence of SCAF, says an unemployed Egyptian at Tahrir Square.

“This election will be rigged,” says another protester. A farmer from a village outsider Cairo, Mohamed Yousef Alvaramy, says that candidates have been intimidated by figures from the old regime into withdrawing their candidacy in the elections. An elderly lady, Aida Ashmeyer, stated that she will vote, but will write “the blood of the martyrs on the ballot”.

Most protesters in Tahrir Square believe that the Islamist parties will be successful in the elections. “The Islamists will win. They are the most organised,” says a protester.

This would not be a bad outcome, according to Sayed Mohamed from Cairo. “We have tried everything in the past,” he said. “We have had socialism and we have had liberalism. We haven’t tried Islamic rule yet. I would like to try it.”

“Other countries may say that Egypt is become extremist [if Islamist parties are elected], but I agree with Islamic law. If I steal something, I should have my hands cut off,” says Mohamed. Another protester agrees: “The country is going to the Islamists, but this is a good thing. This is the only party who will stop the chaos.”

Some protesters in Tahrir Square referred to the lack of support from the Muslim Brotherhood for their cause. “I was going to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood, but now I won’t. They just want the power. They don’t care about protesters.” However, the youth Muslim Brotherhood, the Altyar Party have shown some support for the Tahrir Square protesters and it has gleaned support as a result.

One protester in Tahrir Square said that he will be voting for the Waft party because he believes that it has the best policies for helping Egypt’s poor.

Some protesters state that it is too early to hold elections as the parties have not sufficiently developed their manifestos and communicated their policies. “I would like two-three months more to decide on the parties and candidates,” says one protester in Tahrir Square.

Some are sceptical of the efficacy of elections. “We are not used to these concepts. There will be mistakes,” says a retired Cairo resident.

One Egyptian in Tahrir Square, who asked not to be identified said that he was in favour of the Mubarak regime. “I had a good job and opportunities. You could walk down the streets freely. I wasn’t interested in politics before, but the situation has forced me to care. Lots of Egyptians feel the same as me, but they won’t say it. If the people here knew that I was pro-Mubarak, I would be hanged,” says the young Egyptian. “I am worried,” he adds. “There will be blood in upper Egypt when the elections are held there because of the tribes.”

Many Egyptians are looking ahead to the presidential elections, which are due to be held next year by the summer. “We need Mohamed ElBaradei now,” says one protester, but another disagrees, “We need someone who has stayed in Egypt. ElBaradei has not stayed in Egypt. We need someone with experience and who knows the system – like Amr Moussa or Omar Suleiman – they would bring stability.”

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