Since early Saturday, the first day of the referendum on amendments to the country’s 2014 Constitution, the vicinity of several schools in the middle class neighbourhood of Ain Shams witnessed a celebratory atmosphere as campaigners and individuals affiliated with the election committees used DJs and nationalist songs to attract voters.
Polling stations all over the country have been secured by members of the police and the military, while according to the law, judges will oversee the elections’ polling stations.
Outside a school, named Mostafa Hafez School for Boys, lines of elderly men extended metres outside the polling station gate which was secured by military police and army personnel.
Mohamed Saeed, a café worker, is originally from Sharqeya, but works in Cairo. “I came here to vote in the referendum, and for changes in the constitution because they will benefit the country in the long run.”
Last Wednesday, during the press conference of the National Elections Authority, it was announced that civilians who are eligible to vote and who are stationed outside their city of residence can vote in any nearby polling station.
“Anything which will enhance stability I am fine with it. Of course, there are some challenges and maybe people are going through a tough time, but we should be strong in order to make our country strong.”
However, Saeed said that he has not read all the amendments, but he specifically mentioned the workers and farmers quota and the extension of the presidential term. “My father is a farmer and the parliament should have individuals representing these poor people in order to voice their demands,” the 32-year-old man told Daily News Egypt.
Another voter is Samia, 56, who is a housewife, said that she came to the polling station in order to “cast the vote and to choose a better future.” Samia said that the amendments will “secure the country and prevent the turmoil and chaos that has happened in other neighbouring countries.”
However, critics of the amendments say that the women’s as well as the farmer’s and worker’s quota are only superficial procedures that will allow personnel who are representing minorities but are favoured by the state to be elected.
Soad, an engineering student who only gave her first name, said that she will refuse the amendments because they “will only put all the powers in the hands of one person, and will make him choose people who support him and will not be obliged to be questioned by anyone.”
The engineering student who voted in the Salah Al-Din School in the upper class neighbourhood of Heliopolis said that there are only posters calling on people to approve of the amendments. “There is no space given for no campaigners to express their ideas,” she added.
Other polling stations in Heliopolis also have heavy security presence accompanied by a festive atmosphere where voters cheered and chanted to nationalist songs which were played.
Rashwan Al-Abd, a retired French teacher, came to vote in the Al-Tabary School along with his wife. Both voted “yes” to the amendments. “We learned by experience that we cannot have a random president of any political inclination. We should have a man who works for the state and is part of the government, not a loud-mouthed politician,” Al-Abd said.
On the creation of a senate to handle some of the legislative work, Al-Abd described this step as a democratic step that “increases the number of people who take decisions regarding the laws that are applied.”