CAIRO – “I’m voting for Ahmed Shafiq, because he can bring back the old days of
Egypt,” grins Adel underneath his piously groomed beard, as election fever hits
the streets of Cairo just one day before polls open in what many are calling
Egypt’s first undecided presidential vote.
“You’re not convinced, are
you?” Adel – who asked not to use his real name – laughs as our taxi spins
through the busy maze of Cairo’s shabby Helwan district on a sweltering hot
As the build-up to the presidential race approaches its climax,
it is evident that many people want their voices to be heard as some 30
million-40 million voters are expected to head to the polls, according to
Egypt’s official Al-Ahram newspaper.
In Tahrir Square, several men
surround a graffiti image of a two-faced caricature of ousted president Hosni
Mubarak and Egypt’s military chief, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, flanked on the left
by images of former foreign minister Amr Moussa and Shafiq, both
“The revolution continues,” red Arabic calligraphy declares
to the right of the politically charged drawing.
“The people who painted
this were paid,” says Ali, a bookstore owner who mentions also the defaced
political posters that hang from walls throughout the city, such as a line of
posters for Moussa on a Helwan school which have each been ripped between the
former Arab League chief’s eyes and chin.
He launches into a fiery tirade
against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, self-proclaimed moderate and
conservative Islamist political groups who have gained a strong majority in
Egypt’s new parliament.
Ali says he voted to put them there, but adds
that he thinks they are now proven liars, and are making the country out too
look like a “theater” to foreigners.
“They’re laughing at us outside
Egypt,” he says, referring to the law that grabbed headlines a few months ago in
which parliament voted to allow postmortem relations with one’s wife for up to
six hours after her death.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has three candidates,”
he says. “Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Mohamed Mursi and Mohammed Salim
Only one of those three Islamist candidates is officially
aligned with the Brotherhood – Mursi – but Ali says the group has made any
Islamist in the government, but especially the “Brotherhood and the Salafists”
difficult to trust.
“I’m not voting for anyone,” says Khaled, who sells
T-shirts on a busy corner of the bustling Talaat Harb Square in downtown
“Moussa, Aboul Fotouh, they’re all the same to me,” he says,
complaining about the fact that he still needs to pay police officers bribes in
order to run his stand in the lucrative location, echoing a common sentiment
that can be heard in Egypt today, longing for stability that seems to have been
thrown into question along with the country’s political future.