An elderly woman raised her voice in the polling station asking: “Where is the ‘For the Love of Egypt’ list?” The judge answered it’s not his job to tell her whom to vote for. Then she asked: “Where are the Free Egyptians Party candidates?” The judge again refused to answer.
Another middle-aged woman asked the members of the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC): “Whom should I vote for?”
One the other hand, other voters said that “trust” is the most important factor that they are looking into when choosing a candidate.
In Al-Shaheed Ahmed Abu Al-Dahab school, a female senior citizen was assisted by soldiers from the Ministry of Interior to get in the polling station. The human rights unit in the ministry provided wheelchairs for old voters to facilitate the process.
In six polling stations located in the district of Dokki in Giza, voting for the Agouza constituency in the governorate of Giza, Daily News Egypt spoke to voters to find out what they hoped from the parliamentary elections and the upcoming parliament.
The elderly and women. Most voters were in the age group of 45+, and mostly 60+. The majority of voters were women. There were also several people with special needs observed among the elderly. The Ministry of Interior’s Human Rights Department provided wheelchairs and assisted those in need, in all visited polling stations.
Participation rates remained low in the first half of the day, from 9 am to nearly 2 pm. In one polling station, a total of 20 voters present at the same time could be counted.
Why were voters voting?
It was observed that most voters were motivated enough to participate in the elections, driven by a sense of patriotism more than paying attention to the composition of the upcoming parliament, thus less caring and less knowledgeable of the candidates themselves.
“I was not following politics but I heard some names that became famous and seem to have a good reputation or are socially popular,” said one male voter.
The SEC on the other hand, has printed out copies of the candidates’ names whether on individual seats or in the lists, which were posted inside polling stations, but most voters had a look at it without really knowing what to look for.
“The important thing is knowing if they are Brotherhood or not,” said another elderly woman who voted in the Al-Madina Al-Gameya school in Dokki, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. When asked how she found out about their political affiliation, she barely responded: “From TV”.
By contrast, some voters knew at least one candidate they wanted to vote for. They were either confused on how to find that candidate’s name, or whom to elect as a second candidate, as they were supposed to choose two candidates for the Agouza constituency.
Interestingly, Sherine, the youngest female voter present at the time of the observation, had cast her vote and was waiting for her mother to finish. Sherine is 23 and said she came because she was “tired of the negative energy and wanted to be proactive”.
Sherine has previously participated in elections, but this time, she said, it was difficult to select candidates. “I came to elect one specific candidate for the individual seats, but I am supposed to elect two people, so my second choice was a little confused. I researched the candidates and tried to have my second candidate as a woman to enhance their representation,” she said.
Despite her positivism, Sherine does not really believe she is going to be represented in the parliament. She said she was the only one among her friends who was going to vote, mostly because “things happened so fast and they do not know who the candidates are”.
A woman and her mother at the Al-Shaheed Amer Abdel Maqsoud school said they determined candidates according to their reputation in their districts. “We asked around our neighbours and friends, tried to evaluate their reputation and find out if they really provide services for the community,” said the daughter.
“This is also how we found out who is Brotherhood and who is not,” added her mother.
In general, however, voters in Dokki seemed to have minimal awareness of the importance of political participation. According to the testimony of several judges and employees of the SEC inside polling stations, the majority knew how to vote and whom to vote for.
Rania Effat, a 43-year-old voter in the Al-Shaheed Ahmed Aboul Dahab school between Dokki and Mohandessin, also supported the idea of voting in order to avoid having the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood. “And because there is a fine of EGP 500 if you do not vote,” she added, joking.
Effat said she never personally saw the candidates “so I doubt that they would represent me inside the parliament in a satisfactory way, meaning that out of 10 demands they might take care of one.” She added that she depended on candidates’ reputation in the social and media environment.
“Candidates did not properly communicate with voters regarding their political programmes and I hardly think that all of the sweet talk they used will be implemented once they get the votes, because they will get the parliamentary seat, benefits, and political immunity,” Effat said.
Effat concluded that despite seeing no changes in people’s lives brought by the current and previous elections; she would rather have “10% of good and honest parliamentary members than not having any at all. I would rather have somebody who does not do anything than somebody who does harm.”
In the same school, a SEC employee told Daily News Egypt that she was asked on several instances by people: “Who should I vote for?” and mostly: “Which candidate is not Brotherhood?”
Typically, in referring to political Islam, all voters used the term “Muslim Brotherhood” and none of them mentioned the Salafist Al-Nour Party.