Voting heats up in Cairo

As the build-up to the presidential race approaches its climax, it is evident that many people want their voices to be heard.

May 24, 2012 04:41
2 minute read.
Ripped posters of Amr Moussa in Cairo

Ripped posters of Amr Moussa in Cairo 370. (photo credit: Eliezer Sherman)


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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 Tuesday.

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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 bespectacled.

“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.

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“The Muslim Brotherhood has three candidates,” he says. “Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Mohamed Mursi and Mohammed Salim al-Awa.”

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 Cairo.

“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.

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