Tag Archives: ndp

After the Elections

6 Dec

It’s been a week since the 2010 Egyptian Parliamentary elections.   Today finished up the process with the runoff elections, which were, in response to the rampant corruption, violence, and rigging of the first round, boycotted by all of the major opposition parties.  They’ve been called the worst elections in Egyptian history, and a turning point in the regime from playing along with the multi-party facade, if in a mostly conciliatory sort of way, to a parliament 96.5% controlled by the ruling party (according to first-round results).

After mulling over everything that I had seen and witnessed, I guess the biggest conclusion that I have drawn is that at the end of the day, Egypt is the people.  Even if processes fail, the people don’t go away.   When the government fails to provide, the people will find a way.  If the state were to completely collapse, the people wouldn’t just disappear.  Life goes on.  You still eat and breathe and provide for your kids.

Even though these elections could be the WORST EVER–and Egypt has been around a long time!!–most Egyptians still live out their lives without taking too much notice of the doings and goings on of the government, and I guess to some extent so do the people in every country.*  I only was aware of the runoff elections today by the slight increase in police sirens.

Of course, that’s not to say I don’t think government and all that is important.  But seriously, if Hosni Mubarak were to die and the government were to keep it from us, would we notice?  Would it even matter?

*With the large exception, of course, of the Alexandria shisha ban.  That has really gotten some people up in arms.


Election Day

3 Dec

NDP wins 217 seats of parliament’s 508 seats in first round, opposition take 5

16 dead, 100 injured during the electoral process

50 lawsuits filed challenging parliamentary poll results

High Elections Commission: Voter turnout reached 35%

NDP leader says no deals made in election

Wafd Party to submit file of ‘election violations’ to President Mubarak

European Parliament condemns elections conduct

Muslim Brotherhood considering pullout from run-off vote, says supreme guide

I’m sitting here watching the “Latest News” headlines flash across the Al-Masry Al-Youm main page (English Edition because I’m lazy), finding it hard to believe that I live here.  After opening a WaPo article on Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Egypt, I found myself scouring the text for mentions of Alexandria, and wanting more specifics on locations and people.  I flipped through the photos on the article, realizing that I was here!  This all happened right below my balcony.

The morning of the elections I woke up to a text message saying my class in the morning had been cancelled.  Yes!  After a little more sleep, I decided to go out and brave the world of elections.  When I had asked Egyptians whether they were planning on voting, all had laughed and told me no, of course not!  Several even cautioned me to stay inside all day.  Don’t ride public transportation, don’t leave your house.  “What should be a day of people expressing their voice and celebrating in the streets has become a dangerous day when people keep to themselves for fear of violence” one friend told me.

But, judging from my initial assessment of what was going on on the street below my window, it seemed like a fine day for a walk to the bank.   As I was walking, I came across a crowd of men standing in the street.  Banners, signs, and posters with candidates’ names and party information, plus a symbol to distinguish the candidate for illiterate voters, and sometimes a picture, were even more highly concentrated in this area of the street than elsewhere.  A polling station!  The men were clustered around the entrance to a school, with Shurta (police) guarding the gate.  A table and laptop were set up next to the gate, with election officials or volunteers entering data from voters’ Bataqa (voting registration card), and granting them access a couple at a time to the school.  I slunk past the polling station, trying not to stare, but wanting to ask a million questions about everything I had heard about the elections.  Hi there!  Is it true that a judge in Alexandria cancelled voting in 10 out of 11 districts this morning?  Good morning.  I heard that someone was stabbed yesterday for hanging up a poster of his father, an (illegal) Muslim Brotherhood candidate, is that the case?  Hello. Why did you all decide to come out to vote today, despite the very big possibility that there will be a lot of fraud and government intervention in these elections?

But I didn’t ask, just walked on by.  Later, after my (unsuccessful) trip to find the bank, I passed another Legna, or polling station, and was accosted by supporters of the NDP (National Democratic Party, the party of Hosni Mubarak, 82-year-old president of Egypt these past 30 years) and Wafd (opposition) party candidates, handing me flyers and asking for my support and vote.  I explained that I’m not Egyptian so I can’t vote, but still was curious about the elections.   After getting answers to a couple of my questions (yes, some polling stations are closed), and getting offered a motorcycle ride (no, thanks, I have to be going), I started my walk home.  One of the men, Syed, was walking the same way to a polling station near Camp Shezar (where I live), and invited me to come watch the process.  So I did!  Syed, I learned, was voting for the first time, and believed that even if the government was sticking its hands into ballot boxes, elections still presented an opportunity and duty for Egyptian citizens to express their voice and participate in their government.  We asked around to find where his neighborhood polling place was, and after finding it, stood in line to enter Syed’s info into the computer.  While waiting, I talked to the young NDP candidate supporters, who told me that they had decided to support him because of all of the good he had done for the community, such as opening a new hospital, and supporting their football team.  The boys suited me up with NDP gear:  t-shirt and pen!  Syed at this point entered the school to vote, and came back with his index finger marked with magenta dye.  I told him, mabrook!  and described to me the curtained off voting area, and the clear ballot boxes inside the legna.

After parting ways with my new buddy Syed, I went over to Monica’s to work on a literature project, and found that there was another polling station right below her balcony.  I snapped a picture as we were walking up, and was immediately asked if I was from the Press.  Photography is forbidden, I was told.  The atmosphere at this polling place was different than at the others I had seen.  I could feel the tension in the crowd of men that was standing around.  One man, who we were told was “crazy” was ranting loudly about the disparity in campaign funds between NDP and opposition candidates.  As he started getting a little pushy with the Shurta and those around him, Monica and I decided it was preferable to watch the scene unfold from the safety and comfort of her balcony.  The polling station stayed active all day, with dozens of supporters for the Wafd party candidate gathering around the Legna, chanting football cheers, and even bringing in a truck with loudspeakers to start cheers and dances in the street.   This went on until 7pm, when we watched the clear-sided ballot boxes being carried out from the school in a funeral-like procession; a line of vote-filled caskets, each one carried between two black-clad Shurta, disappearing around the corner into a dimly-lit alleyway.

Post-elections, the news has been strewn with images and stories of the widespread fraud and violence, lawsuits against the preliminary results indicating a greater than 90% sweep for the NDP, with not a single seat won yet for a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated independent candidate.  I can’t help but be frustrated by weak response by the State Department to the elections, and wonder if it would have been different were Egypt and the US on different terms strategically and in terms of economic investment (more like the responses to and coverage of last year’s elections in Iran).