Egypt Independent

Suez, which stoked flames of uprising, lukewarm on election

SUEZ — The first post-revolution presidential election has attracted much hype in local and international media, but that excitement was not reflected in Suez, where the first protester was killed in the 25 January revolution.

During the early hours of Wednesday and up until the afternoon, polling stations across the city were mostly empty and queues were hardly visible outside polling stations. At mid-afternoon, Suez Security Director Adel Refaat estimated the voter turnout was 15 percent of the governorate's population. However, increasing numbers flocked to polling stations towards the later hours after finishing work and before polls were closed.

“In parliamentary elections, tribal and family tensions and are most evident due to the fierce competition because people fight for the candidate from their neighborhood or tribe to win, unlike presidential elections,” explained Ahmed Gaafar, 45, while waiting to vote outside a polling station in Ganayen in rural Suez.

Ganayen is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood compared to Suez’s central districts. Most voters were more inclined to vote for Freedom and Justice Party candidate Mohamed Morsy, added Gaafar, who was himself voting for Morsy.

Israa Mohamed, 35, who just voted at Canal Primary School in the heart of Suez, tied the low turnout to a fear of violence. “People were expecting violence will erupt in elections,” she said, explaining that there is general feeling of insecurity around the city.

Suez witnessed a tragic fire at the oil tanks of Nasr Petroleum Company in April that was allegedly intentionally perpetrated, according to official investigations.

Those same feelings of insecurity and longing for a stable country seemed to be directing people to vote for former Arab League chief and Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, one and a half years after the revolution toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

“Moussa is the best to rule at this tumultuous period in order to restore security and stability because he has more experience both locally and internationally compared to other candidates,” said Mona Abdallah, 19, outside King Faisal School at Faisal district as she was waiting in line to vote.

Nagat Masoud, 45, also voting for Moussa, said, “We don't want someone new to experiment on us. Moussa is best for now to cross the transition period with us. Other new faces can rule later on.”

“I don’t think elections will solve the country’s problems or achieve stability,” said Mohamed Saeed, 34, after he came out of the polling station in Salah Nasim School, Etaqa district. “But I hope Moussa is strong enough to do it.”

Another reason expressed by voters for backing Moussa in the urban centers of Suez, as opposed to Morsy, is their frustration with the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party.

“I voted for the FJP in the parliamentary elections but learned my lesson. Their performance in Parliament was not what we expected at all,” said Iman Abdo, 25, who will vote for Moussa. “We want someone to quickly solve the country's problems.”

Although those who back former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq in the elections also view him as the strongman who will enforce stability, support for him in Suez is almost nonexistent. There are hardly any visible posters for Shafiq in Suez’s streets.

In addition, activist groups such as Suez Youth Bloc and the April 6 Youth Movement organized a human chain in central Suez’s Arbaeen square, holding signs that say, “No to feloul,” or remnants of the old regime.

“We will not vote for anyone who belongs to the old regime. We made a revolution to remove them and it's a disgrace that they are running in elections,” said Kholoud Fouad, 24, who said she participated in the 25 January uprising. 

On a different note, a number of violations were spotted across the day in different polling stations.

In the Old Suez Preparatory School for Girls polling station in Arbaeen, a woman was caught by Judge Nermeen al-Masry voting for someone else by exploiting a similarity in their names. The judge wrote a petition and referred her to the prosecutor.

Outside the same school, a campaigner for Morsy was calling for voters in the queue to vote for him.

Similarly, campaigners of Morsy and Hamdeen Sabbahi stood outside Nasser Cement School in Etaqa district, persuading voters as they approached the station.

Additionally, Mohamed Bakry, general secretary of Egyptian Current Party and an Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh campaigner, told Egypt Independent that an army officer at Salah Salem school in the Arbaeen district assaulted him when he went to rescue another campaigner.

As the other campaigner took a video of an army soldier persuading one of the voters to vote for Shafiq, the army officer scolded him for taking a picture of a military man and snatched the camera away from him by force. The issue was later resolved.

Furthermore, the judge at Abu Bakr School in the Ganayen area allowed candidates’ representatives to show people their numbers in voters’ lists inside the station in violation of the regulations, as representatives are prohibited from speaking with anyone.

Rabab Tawfiq, member of Suez Youth Bloc, which monitors the elections, told Egypt Independent that the judge at Abdel Rahman Ibn Ouf School, also in Ganayen, refused to let candidates' representatives inside the station.

Finally, a microbus sponsored by Abouel Fotouh’s campaign carried supporters to a polling station in the Arbaeen neighborhood. Army officers ripped posters from the bus as it approached the polling station.