We are into the second day now of Egyptian voting and there is a mixture of hope and familiarity! Omar went to cast his vote yesterday and was aware of all the Muslim Brotherhood people trying to influence people’s votes. They are out paying people 10LE to vote for their local candidate. However, Egyptians are not stupid. They happily took the money and then voted for who they were going to vote for anyway!!!
Everyone feels good about the elections and were originally hopeful of a positive outcome, but they become as sceptical as ever when confronted by the corruption and vote-rigging which they see still happening. Nothing has really changed. But they still go.
The army has been really clever too in organising the timing for this round of voting. They chose the beginning of the hot season, where only those who are dedicated will venture out to queue in the 45 degree heat while they look up your ‘number’. They have sent people from Luxor to vote in Esna, which is an hours drive away, or El Maris which is a half-hour drive away. So if you don’t have transport…you can’t vote. No-one quite understands why but it seems pretty obvious to me.
When people get to the polling stations, not sure where they are supposed to be voting, they are told that they have to go to Esna, or El Maris to vote because their ID number is not here. They have pages of people’s voting numbers but no proper system to go with them. Omar went to cast his vote and luckily checked on-line to see where his vote was to be cast and to record his number. When he reached the table the man had a huge pile of papers which he rifled through to find his number telling him that he was supposed to be at Esna to sign. He was just too lazy to check through all the names. Omar then gave him his number and the man checked and lo and behold there it was!!! It wasn’t at Esna after all! So he voted. But how many people are being sent on a wild goose chase?
Anyway, he cast his vote and had his finger dipped in ink so that he couldn’t vote again but he says the process is so flimsy that it is easy to rig it. The Muslim Brotherhood who stay close-by under the guise of protecting the process, also close the stations for prayers. Who knows what they are doing in the meantime??? They have no authority to do it but are doing it anyway!
One 70 year old woman, whom Omar helped to get her number online, got to the polling station where there was a long line of queueing women. Because she had her number she went right in and presented herself to the man behind the desk and handed him her number and ID card. He was impressed that this 70 year old woman could be so organised…and computer literate. He showed her the polling booth and she tried to act as if this was something she did every day. He gave her the voting ballot and the pen but she didn’t actually know where the man she wanted to vote for was on the paper. But instead of looking a fool and being embarrassed she signed her name on one of the names and left. She has no idea who she voted for! She knew who she wanted to vote for…
When I heard this story I wondered how many other illiterate women and men were too embarrassed to ask where their preferred candidate was so that they could sign! Its quite sad really.
There are foreign people in Luxor reporting on how the voting is going but they are not seeing the true picture. They are seeing the queues and the happy faces. This is, after all, their first free democratic election. But they are not seeing what is going on around it. The Muslim Brotherhood have been out en-force to make sure their candidate gets elected. They will use whatever they can, including bribery and coercion. One of the failed parliamentary candidates from Qurna had his wife rent two shop spaces beside one of the polling stations to offer refreshments to the voters!!! He is a Brotherhood member too!
You can’t trust anyone. But I imagine that if the army don’t get the man they want, which I’m pretty sure they will, by whatever means, they will scupper the process and we will be seeing more elections in June. Just wait for the next revolution! it is going to take some time for Egypt to be cleansed of all its corruption. But it has to start somewhere…