Most residents of the village of Beni Idris in the Upper Egyptian Assiut governorate refused to cast ballots on Tuesday in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls to protest outstanding economic grievances, including local shortages of bread and butane gas canisters.
Protesters carried banners on Tuesday – the first day of third-round runoff elections – reading, “If there’s no bread or gas, there can be no People’s Assembly or Shura Council.” Similar banners urging people not to vote were hung throughout the village.
“We’ve staged demonstrations and blocked the agricultural road to draw attention to the ongoing lack of butane gas cylinders,” said village resident Mohamed Abd El-Shafei, a member of the popular committee that organised the campaign.
A sizeable portion of the Egyptian public, especially in rural areas, relies heavily on butane gas – which has been traditionally subsidised by the state – for most of their cooking and heating needs.
According to Abd El-Shafei, village residents decided to launch the anti-voting campaign several days ago. The village of Beni Idris boasts some 10,000 denizens, of which roughly 4,600 are registered voters.
Popular committee member Bassem Marzouk stressed that the campaign was not directed against a specific political group, but rather against the ongoing shortage of badly needed butane gas.
Committee member Makrem Abd El-Salam complained that –despite promises from the Assiut governor, supply ministry officials and municipal council representatives that the problem would be solved shortly – no action has yet been taken on the issue.
According to Abd El-Salam, gas canister prices on the local market have reached a whopping LE50 (roughly $8.30) each. They had previously been available for no more than LE10.