October 22, 2019

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  • Sharqiya turns against MB

    Despite voting Brotherhood in the PA elections, Sharqiya, the birthplace of the two rivaling candidates, chose Shafik in the first round.

    BY SAFAA ABDOUN

    Sharqiya: For the residents of Sharqiya, the presidential election is a vendetta against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

    In the first round, ex-air force commander Ahmed Shafik won the Delta province with 627,808 votes, 90,000 more than Mohamed Morsi’s 536,634 votes.

    Sharqiya was supposed to be an easy win for the MB’s Morsi, who served as the province’s MP in 2000-2005. While Shafik’s sweeping win stunned observers, residents of the area were unsurprised.

    The Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm led by Morsi, had won 18 of 30 seats in Sharqiya during the parliamentary elections just months ago. But its being an MB stronghold was the reason behind Shafik’s win. Voters there are tired of the Brotherhood rhetoric and are wary of their coming into power.

    “You see this garbage collector over there? If Morsi wins, they’ll fire him and hire someone from the Muslim Brotherhood instead,” Hamida Abdel Moneim, a housewife in the Faqous district of Sharqiya, said when asked why she isn’t voting for her townsman Morsi.

    This vilification of the Islamist group is driving people to vote for the opposing candidate.

    “We gave them our votes in the parliamentary elections and what did they do? Nothing. It all turned out to be void promises to win votes,” said Mohamed Abdel Fattah Daoud, a teacher.

    Alternate comparisons

    The gap between this town at the heart of a cluster of villages on the eastern part of the province and the fast-paced capital finds its reflection in the residents’ perception of politics. The group’s long history in the opposition could find its sympathizers in urban centers, but in Faqous, it’s a different story.

    “We know these people well and lived with them, unlike those in the city who relate to [the Brothers] because they were oppressed by Mubarak’s men,” Daoud continued. “They are greedy and hungry for power and want to control the people,” he said, giving the example of the group’s U-turn on its decision not to field a president.

    Under the Hosni Mubarak regime, the Brotherhood managed to snatch the Faqous seats from his National Democratic Party (NDP) in the 2005 parliamentary elections, but lost in 2010 before the Jan. 25 uprising.

    Abdel Moneim explained that for the MB, it’s all about kinship. “If I complain to an MB leader about something one of its members did, they wouldn’t do anything about it. They only benefit one another,” she said.

    Morsi’s posters are the most visible, seen in the alleys and on the walls of the low-rise buildings. Shafik’s are only seen on the main streets, especially on the shop windows near the central railway station.

    Former government officials and members of the now-disbanded NDP, campaign for Shafik. Their main motive was the political exclusion law that targeted Shafik but was overturned by the constitutional court last Thursday. The party itself was disbanded by court after the uprising.

    “People whose families have been providing numerous services to the town for decades should not be denied practicing their political rights because they belonged to a now-dissolved party,” explained a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Far away from Tahrir Square, the fact that Shafik was Mubarak’s last prime minister, earning him the “felool” label, meaning a remnant of the old regime — is not much of an issue. For some, it is an advantage.

    “He was an employee in the military forces then God blessed him and he became minister [of civil aviation]. Is this his fault or does it show how hardworking he is?” said Hajj Ismail, sitting at his farm.

    Most residents make their living through agriculture-related activities: in the cotton, rice and mango farms or the agriculture-related industries. The stretches of fields outside the urban clusters are littered with buildings, where illegal construction increased over the past year.

    Like many Egyptians, the economy tops the residents’ concerns.

    In the afternoon, as the men gather at the coffee shop, discussions about politics and candidate comparisons are intertwined with anecdotes of their daily struggles.

    In between puffs of shisha, Mohamed Abdel Fattah, who owns a mobile shop, explained his vote for Shafik. “We tried him before and he knows the game, so he will sort everything out and get us out of this mess,” he said.

    At the next table, Fathy Abdel-Samei, a car mechanic, defended the Muslim Brotherhood. “[It’s] a huge organization with experts in every field. Khairat El-Shater [the group’s first choice who was disqualified] is a big businessman and he will resolve all the economic problems in no time.”

    As the debate continued, Abdel Fattah’s brother came in with news of violence. A truck loaded with sheep was attacked by armed men and the driver was shot in the shoulder. It was the second time such an incident occurs in one month, raising with it a more pressing concern for the residents: security.

    “You see this?” Ahmed Abdel Fattah said taking out a sword from his car, “I can’t go anywhere without it now.”

    For them, the Islamists they elected into parliament were not able to provide security. Since police pulled out of the streets on Jan. 28, 2011, a crime wave gripped the country. The police’s intermittent and limited return to the streets failed to restore security or stop the illegal construction on agricultural land in Faqous.

    “We now have to take a tok-tok to go anywhere, this is an additional burden on our budget,” said Rawya Mostafa.

    Many of the women are unhappy with the runoff. “I voted for [Abdel Moneim] Abol Fotoh so we would continue down the path of the revolution, but he didn’t win so now we’re stuck between Morsi, who I fear, and Shafik, who will free Mubarak and his sons,” said Ehsan Mohamed, an elementary school teacher.

    Boycotting or invalidating the vote is not an option for many in Sharqiya.

    “Voting is a duty which I can’t forfeit,” said Manal Mohamed, a teacher at the Islamic Institute in Faqous.

    “Boycotting will just benefit the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, because their numbers are known. But it’s the other people who make the difference,” said Aleya El-Sayed, an elementary school teacher.

    She also contested the notion of traditional voting structures, claiming that electing a president is different from electing parliament. In the latter, mayors and town leaders can influence people’s choices.

    “There are no tribal connections or relations that binds us to a certain candidate like in the People’s Assembly or Shoura Council,” explained El-Sayed.

    “Now each member of the family is voting for a different candidate,” she added.

    As Daoud explained, people want a president with empathy, who understands the poor. “All we want is stability, no inflation and security.

    “But any president that comes will not be able to change Egypt; we [the people] need to first change from within.” –The Egypt Monocle

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