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So, what did the Egyptians really vote for?

With turn out at just 33 pct in the first phase of Egypt's constitutional referendum, Ahram Online's Dina Samak says Egypt's political elite have lost the support of the man on the street

Dina Samak , Sunday 16 Dec 2012
So, what did the Egyptians really vote for?
Women chat as they wait outside a polling center to vote during a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo December 15, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
Views: 4525
Views: 4525

The first day of voting in Egypt’s constitutional referendum is over. But what did Egyptians vote for and will they get what they want?

Om Rasha is a cook with three children and wears the full Islamic face veil. She lives in a village on the outskirts Suez and says has voted for the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists in every election since 2011, because “they are men of God and will fear God and obey His orders and be good to the poor.”

However, the life of Om Rasha, and the 40 per cent of Egyptian women who, like her, are the main breadwinners in families living below the poverty line, has not improved since the revolution and there are few signs that it will in the near future.

Om Rasha says she does not know who she will vote for in the constitutional poll, which takes place in Suez on 22 December, but she will not vote for the Brotherhood because “they will raise prices for the poor."

She adds: “[The Brotherhood] will not support me financially except if I am a widow or divorced, and I am neither. I am a poor woman who can hardly make ends meet.”

However, Om Rasha also has little time for the opposition groups campaigning for a 'No' vote.

“The other men (the leaders of the National Salvation Front, the main bloc opposing the constitution) has not said how they will help me pay my bills. I don’t understand what they say or how they can govern if Morsi leaves and I think they will fight with each other,” she says.

Mixed sentiments could be heard in Maadi, an upper middle class district of Cairo.  In the old market fruits and vegetable sellers from Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta were waiting for customers who were actually queuing for hours at polling stations.

The well-dressed people queuing to vote made it clear they were against the constitution and an Islamist state governed by the "arrogant" Brotherhood which is "little different to Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party."

Others said it was time for the country to move forward and the Brotherhood should be given one last chance to get the ‘wheels of production’ turning.

In Maadi's old market, Abdel Hameed, a fruit seller from Sohag in his early fifties, did not even know if he was supposed to vote in the first or second phase of the referendum.

“This whole thing is not for us,” he says. “I just want things to get better and there is no hope of that.”

Voting took place in Sohag on Saturday, so the voice of Abdel Hameed, like Om Rasha, will not influence the referendum.

“If we vote for the Brotherhood they are going to raise prices and the opposition will keep on protesting. But if we vote for the opposition, the government will keep on telling us to wait until we have institutions that can deliver our demands,” says Abdel Hameed, who takes his young daughter to the hospital every week for dialysis. “I don’t have health insurance and my whole day is spent earning enough money to live and trying to find people to help me get the state to cover the expenses of my daughter’s treatment.”

The first phase of the constitutional referendum saw turnout of just 33 per cent, which means 67 per cent of people simply did not vote.

The apathy many people showed towards the referendum cannot be ignored in the context of the ongoing battle between the ruling Islamists and the civil opposition. If the turnout in the second phase of the referendum is as low as in the first it will highlight the fact that fewer people are willing to vote.

In December 2011, turnout for the parliamentary election was over 60 per cent. A few months later, less than 50 per cent of voters cast ballots in the presidential election. The declining level of participation is a clear message to the country's political leaders if they really want to see it.

In the weeks before the referendum the opposition persuaded many members of the couch party (the majority of Egyptians who do not participate in political activity) to join them in protesting against the draft constitution and the president's constitutional declaration. Many of those who protested outside the presidential palace or in Tahrir Square were taking part in political action for the first time.

Conversely, Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, called on the opposition to respect the ballot box as the only way to measure public opinion on the constitution.

However, the majority of Egyptians, in the first phase of the referendum at least, answered the hard question—they decided not to vote.

The referendum begged the question: Who do you believe will improve your lives? The Brotherhood on the one hand, or supporting the the opposition that calls for "the fulfillment of the demands of the revolution" on the other.

In the end, the people clearly rejected both camps of the Egyptian elite by choosing not to vote.

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17-12-2012 09:48am
Aid to Egyptian people
Muslim Brotherhood is the only one organization of Egypt who spread her two hand to any kind of Aid for Egypt people.
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Sami Pierre
17-12-2012 06:56am
Who are the "Yes" voters?
I think those who voted "Yes" could fall into 4 categories: staunch Islamists; Islamist sympathizers; the poor; & finally those who are simply fed up. I belong to the 4th category. I'm fed up of protests, fed up with Amr Moussa (a Mubarak remnant), fed up with Mohamed El-Baradei (Why is he so vocal & dramatic now. Why didn't he run for President when he had the chance? Can he influence Hamas like Morsi did?), fed up with Hamdeen Sabahy (a Nasserist; do we really want Egypt to be a Socialist country?) My conviction is: Give a chance to ELECTED President Morsi to do something for this country in his 4-year term. After that VOTE him out if you think he hasn't done enough, not protest in Heliopolis or at Tahrir, or on Mubarak's cronies' satellite TV channels. I'm surprized that so many of Ahram Online's writers selectively opt to ignore the democratic process (the ballot box) & keep calling for strikes & protests. Haven't we had enough of these in the last 2 years? Can Ahram Online fe
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17-12-2012 05:57am
May not be rejection
There are a lot of factors that could explain the lack of turnout and not all should be seen as rejections. It could be that some people just don't care whether it is yes or no. They may not see the constitution as affecting their lives that deeply.
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Amourah Idris, Aswan
16-12-2012 09:55pm
Good Report
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16-12-2012 06:34pm
Stop this insanity
What is morsi doing is dividing Egypt. A Vote on a Constitution is not the same as a vote on a Presidential election. This is not a win/lose case, who approve and who disapprove. The constitution has to be approved by most, this result what does it show the least 52 approve 49 disapprove? That is half of Egypt. You Islamist don't know anything about human rights and you wonder why the Mubarak and Nasser kept you in jail. You manipulate people using religion, you brainwash those who are uneducated and this is not going to last long. You cowards didn't fight the October 7 war rather killed President Sadat.
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Dina Abdul Hamid
18-12-2012 06:03pm
Mursi is a genuine democrat
No, he is not dividing Egypt, it is rather the opposition that refuses to play according to the rules of democracy.

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