Parliamentary Elections Monitor

Note: This is an archived project; no significant changes have been made since parliament was seated in January 2016.

New Faces and Skeptical Voters in 6th of October, Moneeb, and Kerdasa

October 18, 2015 . By Nelly Ali

Voter Priorities: Anti-Muslim Brotherhood, Personal Interests

Standing against the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be the main stake of this poll for many voters. The ultimate insult against any party or candidate and the best way to discredit them is apparently to say they are Salafists or Muslim Brotherhood. In Sixth of October City, the electorate dismissed two candidates this way. The Wafd candidate is decried as a “hidden” Brotherhood member, and Yasser al-Qadi, a Salafi, is considered guilty by promoting political Islam, although some bearded workers of the area say they may consider voting for him, if they have time.

Most of the voters agree on one thing: “The important thing is to be able to reach our member of parliament when he’s in the parliament,” said two Sixth of October voters in their forties and fifties. Many residents—in both the working-class neighbourhood of Kerdasa as well as in the better-off districts in the area—expect their MPs to solve the pressing problems the community faces. Unemployment, lack of healthcare, and unreliable or unfinished gas and water networks all were listed as complaints.

Low Turnout and High Skepticism

Other Giza residents said they were too busy to vote including a mother with her children. A few students, who go to Sixth of October University but are registered in Haram, said they would pass on these elections, as they do not see any list or party that would fit their aspirations. At a café with her friends, Hadeer, 18, explained that most of her family is pro-Sisi but that she is not, as she is not convinced by any of his achievements. “Neither am I pro-Muslim Brotherhood, I am really glad we got rid of them—what kind of backwardness was that?”

  “Turnout is low because people know that whoever they elect, they will only look out for their own interests. The National Democratic Party (NDP, the party of former President Hosni Mubarak), Brotherhood, whatever, they’re all the same,” said the only pro-Sisi person sitting with his friends at an outdoor café in Kerdasa. They all complain about their frequent unemployment. Sameh, 34 years old, is a driver. He could actually not vote in Kerdasa, because, he managed to get registered as a resident of Sixth of October, where he works. “You get randomly arrested in the street if the police see you’re from Kerdasa—we’re terrorists in the media’s eyes,” said one of his friends about life in the Brotherhood stronghold.

Muhammad, 45, and Ahmed, 33, sat smoking shisha next to them. They said they are boycotting the elections because they feel completely excluded from the political scene. They said they support former President Muhammad Morsi’s legitimacy, but asked with a smile if they look dangerous or anything like terrorists. On the first voting day, Kerdasa polling stations were full of local journalists, showing a return of order and security in the town where a dozen policemen were killed in August 2013.

Sameh added, “I voted for [retired Air Force General Ahmed] Shafiq in the presidential election. I believe Sisi and the return of security are good because we were in a state of chaos after January 25, 2011, but I’m not going to bother to vote for any of these self-serving people,” referring to the candidates. “I voted for the Brotherhood one in the past parliament.” “Now, this one is in Turkey; he has been sentenced to death,” his friends piped in. They are all workers, in transport and construction, and have worked on projects that, to their open dismay, are often headed by the army, such as the new Suez Canal.

The rhetoric of the “new faces”

Mahmoud Safwat, 32, is a pharmacist and the son of an unsuccessful Sixth of October Mubarak-era candidate, Safwat Heridi, who worked with the parliament for over 15 years. He said, “Initially my father wanted to run. But the elections planned for the beginning of the year were postponed, so we took a collective family decision, and I am the one running. We need new people, new faces.” Mahmoud supports a parliament that actively works on laws, and keeps the security forces in check, but also says that no respectful youth encounters problems with the police.

Another such “new face” is advocated by his supporters in Kerdasa. The man, in his forties, is a cosmetic products manufacturer and seller. Tareq Saeed Hasanein was arrested earlier this year for illegal manufacturing of supposed health products. However, his popularity did not wane: his frequent appearances on television screens are enough to make Ahmed Abdel Rahman—37, a journalist and Abu Rawash resident—believe that Hasanein is a man of importance.

A general is also among those advertised in Kerdasa as a “new face.” Heshmat Darwish’s achievements point to him as a man of the security establishment. He is, for example, rumored to have managed to get Sisi to directly approve of the construction of a hospital in Kerdasa. Darwish’s supporters who helped people find their polling booths and other “influencers” received food at the end of the voting day, one of his supporters said candidly.

Badr Shaarawy: Free Egyptians Party individual candidate

“I was a member of parliament for ten years under Hosni Mubarak. In 2010, I gave up, as politics did not appeal to me anymore, with the competition of overly greedy businessmen. Muhammad Abul Enein took my district,” Badr Shaarawy said on the eve of the elections. He is again one of the individual candidates for Giza Constituency 1 (the Zoo-Moneeb area). He was seated on the sidewalk at a street corner, with his campaign assistants, who happen to work for his building company. He explained, “Now I feel like the time has come again. I boycotted the elections immediately after the 2011 revolution as I didn’t want to compete against the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course there are a few disrespectable people in the race this time around as well. One of them is a koshary-shop owner, and the other one works in real estate. They buy votes. All I ever did was allow people who don’t have health care to get their fees paid for. Even people from Upper Egypt would come to me. Or I would help some youth find jobs. I am now with the Free Egyptians Party (FEP) because they are the ones who are the closest to my political opinions, but I am neither a hard-core liberal nor a socialist.”

Some candidates seem ready to accept a diminished role of the legislature. Shaarawy said he fully endorses what he believes to be Sisi’s call for a modification of the constitution, and that the fight against terrorism makes it a duty to support the executive power as much as possible.

Ayman Abul el Alaa: Free Egyptians Party individual candidate

Ayman Abul Elaa said the anti-terrorism laws should not encroach on freedoms, and should protect journalists and students. He suggested the demonstration law needs to be modified to respect the Constitution. Nevertheless, he made it clear that he is a strong advocate of the president, saying that he quit the Egyptian Social Democratic Party because they were not telling their sympathizers to vote for anyone in the presidential elections and he wanted to support Sisi. He clarified his position, saying that the laws need to be anyway approved first as a matter of principles before any reviewing. And he stridently insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole is a terrorist organisation.