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Mubarak hometown residents revel in free parliament vote

Egyptians in Kafr Meselha, birthplace of ousted president, are now putting their faith in Islamist candidates

Reuters Arabic, Wednesday 14 Dec 2011
Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak is currently detained on charges of corruption and involvement in the killing of peaceful protesters during the January 25 Revolution (Photo: Reuters)
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Voters in Menoufiya’s village of Kafr Moselha, the home town of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, expressed their elation over taking part in Egypt’s first parliamentary polls to be held in the aging autocrat’s absence.

The Menoufiya governorate in the Nile Delta is among the nine governorates covered in the second round of polling, which began on Wednesday and will wrap up on Thursday. Voter turnout in the sparsely populated village was particularly low, but voters appeared to relish the post-Mubarak voting experience.

“We’re happy Mubarak is gone,” said Mohamed Serag El-Din, a former education ministry official and Kafr Meselha resident. “Everything is organised and people are casting their votes without being subject to any pressure.”

During the Mubarak era, parliamentary elections were blatantly rigged in favour of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which was formally dismantled in the wake of Egypt’s January revolution.

Reports of electoral fraud were particularly widespread during 2010 parliamentary polls, which effectively barred all of Egypt’s opposition forces from establishing a parliamentary presence.

Video footage of numerous electoral transgressions, including blatant voter intimidation – reportedly instigated by then NDP secretary for organisational affairs Ahmed Ezz – are believed to have been among the primary drivers of January’s popular uprising.

A chief demand of the revolutionaries, therefore, had been the dissolution of the 2010 parliament and formation of a new assembly through democratic elections.

For these and other reasons, voters in Menoufiya appeared to revel in the country’s first free elections in living memory, with many distancing the city and its inhabitants from the unpopular policies of its best known son.

“Mubarak had absolutely no relations with the village,” said local businessman Samir Shaheen. “He used to refuse to see any visitors that happened to be from the village.”

Despite the former president’s unpopularity in Kafr Meselha, however, the village’s sports club is still named after him. Moreover, a hall inside the club bears the name of Mubarak’s late grandson, Mohamed Alaa Mubarak, while another is named for Suzanne Mubarak, the former first lady who – like her husband – currently faces numerous corruption charges.

Conversely, one school in Kafr Meselha that had been called the “Chief Hosni Mubarak School” before the revolution was subsequently renamed “School of Free Egypt.”

Islamists poised to sweep Mubarak hometown

Not only has Kafr Meselha delighted in the demise of the Mubarak regime, but, according to media reports, many of its residents are now putting their trust in Islamist parliamentary candidates and electoral lists.

Islamists, in general, were chronically oppressed under Mubarak, with many having been deprived of the right to engage in politics. Consequently, they tend to represent the staunchest opponents of the toppled regime.

“We would rather vote for Islamists,” said Serag El-Din.

Shaheen, for his part, noted: “Most local residents will either cast ballots for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party or the Salafist Nour Party.”

So far, both parties have emerged as the biggest winners in the ongoing electoral process, with Islamists expected to dominate Egypt’s first post-revolution parliament.

(Translated and edited by Sherif Tarek and Adam Morrow)

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