Vox pop from polling stations

Al-Ahram Weekly , Wednesday 13 Dec 2023

Al-Ahram Weekly toured polling stations to sound out voters

presedintial elections

 

Boshret Kheir, a popular song by Hussain Al-Jasmi, blasted out of microphones in front of polling stations across Egypt this week. The song calls on Egyptians from all governorates to head to the polls. As around 40 million of Egypt’s 67 million eligible voters chose the country’s next president the mood was decidedly festive.

The scene at the polling station in Al-Sadat Official Language School on Haram Street was typical: citizens gathered at the entrance of the school in groups chanting patriotic songs as the elderly were helped inside to vote. Assistance was also available for those with special needs.

This turnout surprised commentators who had predicted the situation in Gaza would overshadow the poll.

Maher Gergis, a driver, said he did not originally intend to vote but the situation in Gaza helped change his mind.

“I feel President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is keen to defend both the Palestinian cause and Sinai,” said Gergis.

Dina Ahmed, a 29-year-old English teacher, told Al-Ahram Weekly that her entire family saw voting as their national duty. She said that after seeing all the campaign banners her first-grade students had asked if she was going to participate and she wanted to set an example. Offering that she voted for Al-Sisi, Ahmed added that the difficult economic conditions of recent months had not undermined the achievements of the current president.

Omar Abdel-Salam, 44, has voted in every election since 2011. Although he works in Cairo, Abdel-Salam is from Luxor where the Decent life initiative and Takaful and Karama solidarity programmes have actively improved people’s lives. Both he and his wife cast their vote in special polling stations set up for those no longer resident in their home governorate. The most important demand Abdel-Salam has of the new president is to increase job opportunities for people like his 16-year-old son.

Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, who works at a bank in New Cairo, has also been voting since the 2011 Revolution. “I am looking for stability and security for myself and my children. I don’t want to experience chaos again,” he said.

Unlike expectations, the election days were not a public holiday and only the schools where the polling stations had been located were given the three days off.

Government employee Samira Ahmed managed to vote after leaving work on the second day of the poll. She said her husband would not be casting a ballot because he believed President Al-Sisi’s win was a foregone conclusion.

Fatima Mohamed, a pensioner, voted despite the polling station being a considerable distance from her home.

Many voters were impressed by the organisation of the polling stations. A Helwan University professor, who cast her vote at Saiza Nabrawi School in New Cairo’s Third Settlement, praised the smooth running of the ballot. “I cast my vote in just a few minutes,” said the university professor who preferred to remain anonymous.

Engineer Raghda Omar echoed the sentiment: the whole process, she said, was remarkably easy. She criticised those who stayed away from the polls, especially young people, and lamented the fact that most of her relatives did not vote because “they claim nothing will change.”

A 20-year-old student of the Faculty of Law, who preferred to remain anonymous, was among those who refused to take part in the elections because he did not know enough about the candidates. The age of 18 allows him to vote, but it does not obligate him, he noted.

But not all youth stayed away from the polls. Abdel-Rahman Farahat, 18, was very excited about the elections. He remembered when he used to colour his finger red, imitating his parents after they returned from the polls in past elections, “So when I reached the legal age, I participated and did not wait for anyone from my family.”

Holding the hand of his 12-year-old son, schoolteacher Ihsan Ahmed cast his vote in 6 October city. “I insisted on bringing him along to show the importance of participating in elections,” he said. “If people want to maintain the stability and security they currently enjoy they should vote.”

“I think that what has driven many people to take part in the elections this time round is the war on Gaza,” commented Nadia Hassan, a doctor.

“I would like to see prices fall so that future generations can live a decent life and start their own families,” said one citizen who withheld her name. “And we want Egypt to remain stable and not become like neighbouring countries,” she adds.

Adli Ali, a pensioner who wants to see greater social justice and an improved economy, had the simplest of hopes. “May the best man win,” he said.

 

Reported by Nesmahar Sayed, Mai Samih,

and Reem Leila


* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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