Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Election Update & Procedures

Source: The Telegraph
This just in: Muslim Brotherhood winning in Egypt’s Parliamentary elections BUT hold on, guess who the source is? The Muslim Brotherhood (MB). How would the MB know that they’ve reportedly secured 40% of the vote when a) other governorates have yet to vote b) no official representative has released the results so far and c) run-offs for individual seats will take place later?

So please, for all of you posting articles touting these claims, remember to look at the initial source. The UK’s Telegraph reported that a member of the Egyptian Bloc said that in Cairo, one area that voted on Monday and Tuesday, had 40-50% of the votes going to the MB and 20-30% of the votes going to the Egyptian Bloc. Hmmmm…

The election is spread over six weeks encompassing three phases, followed by  run-off.

First, you need to understand how the voting works – which is absurdly confusing, but remember, it is the first “democratically-held” elections ever. There are some highly organized parts though. Like in the US, registered Egyptian voters are required to vote in a certain district. To find out which precinct a voter is registered, (s)he may call 140 to find out the exact location and voter registration number which allows voters to bypass the sometimes lengthy lists to find name and number and/or location.

There are two sheets of paper full of candidates representing the district. An appointed judge is only individual that is allowed to administer the ballots. Once the voter has given their registration number and is handed the ballot, (s)he marks their choices via a cubicle-type desk and then dips their finger in a special ink to seal. Once the polling station is closed for the evening, the judge uses red wax to lock down the votes with the military guarding throughout the night. This could be seen as suspect and easy for military personnel to stuff ballot boxes although military nor police are eligible to vote; however, keep in mind that it is the FIRST time for this procedure to take place.

The fear of the MB becoming the ruling party has my Facebook newsfeed full of pictures depicting a Saudi-type Cairo with women all wearing the full niqab. The stories from many Egyptians that I spoke to regarding voting said the process was lengthy, but without problems. As detailed in an earlier post, stories of buying votes for a particular party have been running rampant. I cannot confirm this, but I will say that I met up with a group of individuals Monday night at a café in Maadi and was pleasantly surprised.

One of the photos in my Facebook newsfeed depicting the change of women if the MB takes control
Most of my friends voted for the Free Egyptian party (symbol: eye), the most liberal party in the running. Then again, do you think many people that are very conservative necessarily associate with me? That being said, throughout the world, voters in a metropolis are known for being more liberal than those from smaller cities (New York state is known for voting primarily for Democrats while Mississippi is conservative voting mostly Republican) so I think that the majority of votes in Cairo and Alexandria can undoubtedly be expected to have a more liberal outcome than areas like those in the Suez governorate.

While accompanying a male Egyptian friend of mine at the café, I was introduced to the table that was composed of four men and two other females (a Christian and a veiled Muslim). After awhile talking about each person’s voting experience, many left to return home leaving my friend and I sitting around discussing everything. He told me, “The guy sitting by the female is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.” I was shocked. First of all, I was under this impression that all MBs were prejudice against women, particularly foreigners. While I didn’t have a complete conversation with him, he was seated next to the Christian woman and was extremely polite to me when I introduced myself. One of my other Egyptian friends informed me that he, too, had a good friend that was affiliated with the MB.

The modern MB is taking on a completely different look from what it used to be, possibly to acquire younger members. My friend said, “You would have no idea that my friend was a member of the MB, he’s completely normal without a beard, cultured and polite.” You might think this sounds ignorant, but I guarantee that many of you who have never met someone in the MB had the same preconceived notions I did (that doesn’t mean that I agree with their ideology by any means). I had another Egyptian friend tell me last night that while she didn’t agree with the MB, had to say that their spokesperson was attractive. Sounds to me like the MB had some classes on changing their image and are doing just that, even if their fundamental goals remain the same.

The main point is, so far the elections seem to be running smoothly, but that isn’t to discount the potential uprisings that could occur once the results are announced in January. The other point I want to make is that no one is able to give an approximate percentage of votes for a specific party at this time.

As my father always said: Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.

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