Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Voices of hope

Reem Leila joined millions of Egyptians lining up to vote in the referendum

Al-Ahram Weekly

More than 160,000 police and soldiers secured 30,317 polling stations across Egypt. A total of 53,423,485 people were eligible to vote in the referendum at polling stations set up at schools and other public buildings. Voting was scheduled from 9am to 9pm on the first day of the referendum. It was expected that some stations would have to extend voting hours on the second day because of the high turnout.

Voters needed to present their national identity card to cast their ballot. Under a decree issued by interim President Adli Mansour voters registered in their home governorates but who had since relocated were allowed to cast their vote at one of the specially designated polling stations closest to their current place of residence.

Soldiers and armoured vehicles were stationed outside each polling station and cars were not prevented from parking in the immediate vicinity because of security concerns.

Early on Tuesday, the first day of the referendum, many were predicting a high turnout. A tour of polling stations in Shubra, Haram, Giza, Mohandessin and Dokki showed the majority opening their doors at the scheduled time though a handful were late.

“The judge says he will make up the 20 minutes delay in opening at the end of the day,” said Mohamed Taha, supervisor of a polling station which, like many others, had been set up in a school.

Many of those Al-Ahram Weekly spoke to cited their participation in the referendum as a truly democratic experience. “The security is well organised and the handling of the vote seems to be progressing smoothly and without any anomalies,” said Atteyat Ahmed as she waited patiently in line to cast her ballot.

Cars emblazoned with posters of Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi cruised the streets, the drivers blowing horns, passengers waving flags from the windows, and all calling out slogans urging people to vote yes.

Waiting outside a polling station in Shubra, Hoda Hanafi took a break from ululating to say she would be voting in favour of the constitution. “I don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood to return. We had enough of them during the past year.”

Many voters said they were voting for the constitution to rescue Egypt from chaos.

“I feel the country is now breathing the fresh air of freedom and democracy,” said Hatem Abdel-Rahman, an employee at the Ministry of Social Solidarity.

The family of a physically disabled 55-year-old Hisham Abdel-Aal helped him to the polling station to vote. “It’s my first time to vote, it’s my right and I must use it,” Abdel-Aal said. “I want Egypt to be the best country in the world. It has suffered a lot since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power.”

Others said that although they had voted in parliamentary and presidential elections this was their first real experience of the power of the ballot box.

“Although it was claimed other elections which took place after the 2011 revolution were conducted in a democratic atmosphere there was a lot of fraud. I never believed the Muslim Brotherhood was capable of winning elections. They forged everything, the presidential and parliamentary elections,” claimed accountant Mohamed Ismail.

Hagga Neamat dipped five fingers in the phosphoric ink, a sign of total support for the constitution.

“I voted yes, and will do the same when Al-Sisi nominates himself in the upcoming presidential elections,” she said, happily waving her five fingers to the crowds of voters.

While many were already hailing the integrity and transparency of the process others thought any judgement premature.

“We don’t know when the referendum results will be announced. I’ll wait until they are before deciding whether the process was clean,” said 23-year-old Bassel George.

Dhalia Hegazi, a university professor and mother of two, confided while queuing to vote that the referendum had caused family arguments.

“I had a big fight with my parents when they knew I was going to vote no. They asked me to leave while I was visiting them two days before the referendum. The government has been relentless in its propaganda for a yes vote. They are basically instructing people how to vote. Don’t they understand their yes campaign is anti-democratic?”

“I’ve been through the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973 and I’ve never seen the chaos I am seeing in Egypt now,” said Mustafa Abdel-Hadi, 63. “We want stability in the country, we want a government and a president to rule us. I’m worried about the increasing rate of crime, cars being stolen, prices of everything increasing. We don’t want thugs, we don’t want criminals. We want to feel stable and secure. It’s our right, I guess!”

Queuing just behind, Abdel-Maguid Othman agreed. “We are the ones who will nominate the president and vote for him, and for MPs who will be forced to serve our best interests.”

Others were undecided. 

“I don’t know which way to vote,” confided Safeya Fathi, 46. “All the debates I’ve heard among people, my friends, and relatives, about the referendum only confused me more.”

Fatma Al-Said, 75, was far from being in two minds.

“I have lived in Egypt when it was a monarchy, and during the rule of four presidents. I witnessed the triumphs and downfalls of those times but I never felt the sense of ownership of my country I’m experiencing now,” she said.

“The 30 June Revolution has empowered us, the people and no one else. I’m lucky to live to witness this day and feel a sense of victory over the Muslim Brotherhood who ruined the country in only one year.”

It was, Al-Said added, the first time she had ever voted. “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I’m helping to plant the seed of a new Egypt not for my benefit but for future generations. At last I was able to give something back to my country.”

Reda Abdel-Salam, who received her adult literacy certificate 10 years ago, was taken to the polling station by the family she works for. “It’s my first time to vote. I’m thinking of the welfare of the country and not myself,” she said.

The voting experience on the referendum day has also shifted opinions about the young people who demonstrated for days in Tahrir Square.

“I have to admit I was against the youth of the 25 January Revolution,” said 62-year-old Mustafa Al-Naggar. “I was against how the demonstrations put the economy on hold. Now, after the 30 June Revolution, I respect them for their insistence and their determination to get us our rights even when we were criticising them for it.”


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