Note: This is an archived project; no significant changes have been made since parliament was seated in January 2016.
Egyptians in Giza Hoping for a Parliament That Will Support, Not Check, President
Egyptians in Cairo’s sister city and governorate of Giza went to the polls on Sunday as part of the first wave of voting in Egypt’s multi-phase parliamentary elections. Throughout the province of Giza, which is separated from Cairo by the Nile River, voters cast their ballot for those political parties and individuals not boycotting the election. However, one thing united voters interviewed in Giza: Those at the polls today are hoping for a parliament that will support, rather than check, President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi.
After four and a half years of political and economic turmoil, those Egyptians who bothered to vote seem to be betting that a pro-Sisi parliament is the ticket to stability and growth. With an increasingly bold insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and occasional bombs and militant attacks in Cairo, preventing a slide toward the anarchy seen in Libya, Syria, and Yemen remains the top concern for many Egyptians.
“When January 25 happened, we were asking for change, but we got chaos,” Youssef Ahmed said near a polling station in the Agouza district, referring to the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. “Egyptians deserve better than chaos, and that’s why we elected Sisi, and that’s why we want a parliament that will continue his policies,” the 35-year-old engineer said.
In addition to supporting Sisi, voters were keen to emphasize that they do not want Islamists in power, even if they are not tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was listed as a terrorist organization and banned after the military (led by then-General Sisi) deposed President Muhammad Morsi of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Most Islamist parties are boycotting the current poll; the Nour Party, a conservative, Salafi group, is a notable exception.
“Anybody but the Brothers and the Salafis,” Nahed Sultan, 50, said in Talbiya district of Giza. “Last time we voted for the Islamists and the country nearly fell apart. Under Sisi, the economy, security, everything is heading in the right direction.” Most Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, were not contesting the polls, though the Salafist Nour Party is.
Since almost all of the candidates have largely signaled that they will support most of the president’s policies, some voters turned to local issues or familiar faces to decide who to cast their ballot for. Fatima Hassan, a second-year college student, said she voted for the candidate who she had seen offering charitable services in her neighborhood of Haram, near the Pyramids of Giza. “I know him and I know he cares about us as people. If he is going to represent our neighborhood in the government, the most important thing is that he knows our neighborhood and what we need,” she said.
Turnout was low, with some polling stations having more police officers and soldiers than actual voters. Unlike the festive atmosphere that surrounded the 2014 presidential election, where Egyptians elected Sisi amid dancing and singing at polling stations, most voters on Sunday seemed to want to cast their ballot as quickly as possible and move on with their day.
Some cited the long delay between when parliamentary elections were supposed to happen and when they actually occurred as the reason for the low interest and lack of celebration.
“They told us we were going to elect a parliament years ago. They said, “First the constitution, then the parliament, then the president.” Then they kept delaying the parliamentary vote so many times, so we lost interest,” said Mahmoud Hussein, a young man smoking a cigarette near a polling station in Agouza. He said he was not voting today because the presidency has already granted itself legislative powers and he did not believe it would give them back to parliament, regardless of who was elected.
Others said the government was right to delay the elections for so long. “We were coming right out of a revolution, there were security concerns, how can you have a parliament in that environment?” asked Muhammad Gamal al-Din, a 50-year-old architect in the Faisal neighborhood of Giza. “I used to sit right there with my gun, just to make sure the gangs didn’t take over our neighborhood,” he said, pointing to a corner opposite the polling station. “We needed to take a period to figure out what is happening in the country before we could elect a parliament.”
One voter, who was in the minority, said she was less concerned how legislators would relate to Sisi, and more concerned with how they would relate to the people who elected them.
“I don’t care if they support Sisi or oppose Sisi; all that matters is the people and the nation. If Sisi proposes laws that will support the people, then I hope (parliament) supports him, but the most important thing is that they do the right thing for the Egyptian people.”