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Saturday, 14 December 2019

Tahrir polling station is open for voting. So what if it feels like a warzone? ‎

Tahrir Square is clamped-down and citizens are expected to vote in an ambiance of a tense war-zone, indeed, where police recently attacked thousands and killed over 35

Salma Shukrallah, Monday 28 Nov 2011
Mohamed Mahmoud wall
An Egyptian protester sits on the concrete block barricade with Arabic writing that reads, "freedom will come forever," near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 27. 2011. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
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Tension is in the air between protesters occupying Tahrir Square and the police, who just a couple of days ago were brutishly attacking protesters with clubs, tear gas and rubber bullets.

The recently-built wall separating the two pretends to maintain some peace.

Barbed wire, military tanks and tens of Central Security Forces (CSF) trucks, meanwhile, surround two polling stations that are open to receive voters.

Memories of police attacks on protesters in Tahrir Square - where last week another 35 were killed and over a thousand injured - haunt the grounds.

By 9:30am tens of voters queued to enter one of the polling stations, however, two hours later the stations were void of voters with only a few arriving every now and then.

One of the voters complained to Ahram Online that many are too scared to enter and demanded that the stations be moved elsewhere.

Those entering from Tahrir Square need to pass by protesters’ checkpoints, who thoroughly search passersby for any smuggled weapons. The same goes for those entering from the street that hosts the government Cabinet headquarters, also occupied by protesters.

Although there are no protester checkpoints on Bab El-Louq Street gateway to Tahrir, voters must pass through military and police check points blocked by barbed wire to reach a polling station.

Every couple of metres there are more police officers or military personnel asking anyone going through: where they are going and why.

In addition to the myriad of checkpoints, military tanks and CSF forces, the area looks like a war zone.

Several surrounding buildings are partially or fully burnt. Burnt rubble is piled in every corner.

Despite the warzone environment and the international norm and election campaign regulations that state that campaigning is illegal around polling stations, campaigners are still handing out flyers in support of their candidates.

The most visible infractions were by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, as well as the Egyptian Bloc.

One of the voters leaving the polling station with his mother started an argument with a Freedom and Justice supporter, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of leaving Tahrir protesters to die alone. The Muslim Brotherhood had decided not to participate in the latest rounds of protests in Tahrir mentioned earlier.

On the other side, Freedom and Justice party members say that they were not informed when the numbers assigned to their candidates on the ballot sheets were changed. Considering they had been using these numbers as a guide for their voters, they complain that this misleads their voters. 

This is one of the intimidating settings that hundreds of voters are expected to cast their vote in.

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