"As Revolutionaries, We Must Win The Battle For Voters’ Hearts": Egyptians Speak Out About Their First Post-Revolution Election
With less than two weeks to voting day, Egypt’s first post-revolution elections have dominated debate among citizens everywhere, offering local media lots of subject matter, and keeping the government and the ruling military council busy preparing. IRIN spoke to a number of Egyptians about their hopes, fears and aspirations for the poll:
Mahmud Nawar, a university student:
“I do not think Parliament will do everything the people aspire to, but still the next polls are a good step in the struggle for Egypt’s future, the struggle for democracy and better living conditions. I fear that [former president Hosni] Mubarak’s loyalists will be able to win a large number of seats in parliament and come to decision-making circles yet again. These people spoiled our life over the past 30 years. If they come to power yet again, these people will not allow any fair distribution of wealth or power. You can find them everywhere in government offices and institutions untouched by the revolution.
“This is why I hope the largest number of revolutionaries will be able to win seats in the next parliament. These are the only people capable of putting the ideals of the 25 January revolution into effect. As revolutionaries, we must win the battle for voters’ hearts. If we fail in doing this, there will be frustration everywhere. We must take the revolution to the end. We cannot just start a revolution and then leave our country for the loyalists of the former dictator yet again.”
Manar Hussein, a diagnostic specialist:
“I hope the elections will be a good chance for Egyptians to launch another revolution. Over the past months, the people must have made certain that if the military controls power, Egypt will take many steps backwards. We have seen the military killing some people and putting others in jail just for speaking out. If we do not offer their backing to Parliament, our legislators will not be able to do anything good for us. The military will always be there to suffocate this Parliament, particularly if it decides to take any revolutionary measures.
“Egypt, as it stands now, does not offer anybody anything good. We all suffer. Our living conditions are bad. As a medical doctor, I think I am financially better off than millions of other Egyptians. Even with this, I do not earn enough money. I have to work all the time to satisfy my financial needs. Egypt does not give me financial security. It does not give me freedom of speech either. We must change all this.”
Father Flobatir Gameel, bishop of the May Morcos Church in Giza:
“Egypt was ruled by a civilian dictator with a military background for 30 years before the revolution. We have fears that we have deposed the civilian dictator only to replace him with an Islamic dictatorship. If the elections open the way for the Islamists to take over, this will be very dangerous. Men of religion always think they are in power to represent God. This means that ordinary people cannot oppose them. If they do this, they will be viewed as challenging God.
“Sorry to say, Islamists have huge chances in the elections. In March, when millions of Egyptians went to polling stations for a constitutional referendum, Islamists managed to influence the people’s choices. They will do the same in the next elections. There are a large number of political parties that are purely religious. We are afraid of these parties. In this, Egyptian Christians are similar to the nation’s liberals. We all know that if Egypt is turned into a religious state, there will not be any type of freedom.”
Mona Shahien, a civil society activist:
“My utmost fear is that the elections will turn into an open warfare among the various candidates. After the elections, the situation could even be worse. Election losers may not accept the results and decide to retaliate. This is very possible, given our country’s current security failure. If this happens, Egypt’s social peace will be destroyed altogether. Election rivalry polarizes society. There are huge rifts in our society now already.
“When it comes to this scenario, nobody will be able to stop the violence. The military has failed to put an end to violence on the streets. Our media even keeps fanning this violence by blowing everything out of proportion. We have very bad media.
“I hope the elections will manage to create harmony in society. This will only happen if all political powers are fairly represented in Parliament. But we still have lots of work to do in the future. We need to rebuild our security apparatus. We need to restructure our administrative systems for them to cope up with the ideals of the 25 January revolution.”
Ramadan Hassan, a street kiosk owner:
“It is time Egypt changed altogether. There is no social justice in this country. Some people earn millions of pounds by doing nothing. Other people, however, earn peanuts by working day and night. I came from my hometown in the south of Egypt to work here, leaving my wife and children behind. Even with this, the little I earn is eaten up by skyrocketing basic commodity prices.
“There is administrative corruption everywhere in this country. Government workers give people no services if they do not give them money. I saw this myself when I went to enrol my daughter in school. They just wanted money to enrol my daughter. I had to do this.
“When it comes to jobs, they only go to the connected. As for the poor, like me and my cousins, jobs in the government sector are not for them. I have a secondary school certificate. I could not find a job in the government sector. Some of my colleagues could find jobs only because they had contacts. I hope Parliament will put an end to all this.”
Ismail Abdurrahman, a driver:
“We must study the programmes of the candidates very carefully. If we do not do this, we will put the wrong people in Parliament. Millions of Egyptians pin their hopes on Parliament to put an end to their suffering. We have unprecedented security problems. People do not feel safe walking in the streets. Thugs and criminals are everywhere. The inmates who escaped the prisons are still out, terrorizing everybody.
“The majority of Egyptians are poor and ill. We want Parliament to pay some attention to these people. We have suffered neglect for a long time under the former regime. We do not want that to happen again, or we will get back to Tahrir Square. We need better salaries. We need lower food prices. I used to work as a schoolteacher. I had to leave my job and work as a driver only to be able to feed my children. Salaries are very low in this country.”