Choosing Not to Vote – the Rundown

“Lettuce for one pound,” Sayed ElSaidi cries out with his loudest voice to draw passersby to his goods, at the same time as Mostafa Ibrahim tells his friend while sitting in a nearby cafeacute in downtown Cairo, “You know how much a kilo of onions costs and how much they will after the elections?”

ElSaidi chuckles when he hears the word “election” and says, “I do not go to elections. It does not matter to me. What matters is that I bring home money for my daughter and wife.”

A few years back, ElSaidi left his hometown in Assiut, in Southern Egypt, and headed to Cairo to become a vegetables vendor.

ELSaidi has took his decision to boycott all elections a few years ago, “I came to Cairo only to work and bring in money, not to waste my time and go to elections that I will not gain anything from, whether a president comes or not.”

All what ElSaidi knows about the looming elections is that, “It is between two, Sisi and Sabahi, I do not know which one is good and which is bad.”

ElSaidi is not a unique case, seeing the turnout figures in Egypt’s elections during the last three years. In the 2012 presidential elections, the turnout was 46 percent. In the rerun, it rose up to 52 percent.

The voters’ turnout in the 2012 constitutional referendum was 34 percent and it rose slightly to be 39 percent in the 2014 constitutional referendum.

The turnout indicates that at least half Egyptians did not participate in any elections in the last three years. Considering those who did not vote for political reasons and chose to boycott, there are others with distinct reasons for not partaking in the electoral process.

Ali Mohamed, clothing shop owner, decided not to vote because he cannot afford to travel to his hometown in Sohag, a southern Egypt governorate, and travel back, “I can’t pay 200 or 300 pounds to go vote and then head back to my work in Cairo.”

“If I am already in my hometown I would vote, but I wouldn’t go specifically just to vote.”

Mohamed did not register his name in the committees allocated for the internal migrants, saying that he did not know such committees existed, “Even if I did, I have no time.”

Mohamed, 30, knows about the presidential contenders through television shows, “I sometimes watch the candidates in interviews. All I want from whoever wins is that the country settles and the elections end in peace.”

“Why should I go? Every time I vote, I am not hired by the government and my salary stays the same,” Mahmoud Fathy, cleaning worker, explained his reasons for not voting.

Fathy, 40, works in a private cleaning company for a monthly salary of 700 pounds, “I am supposed to afford housing and feed my three children with this money. I do not have any other income.”

Fathy said he never felt an improvement in his life after voting, “I voted in the parliamentary elections many times, but I never saw a parliamentarian do anything for me or for my country.”

All that Fathy knows about the presidential candidates is that there are two of them, “One is named Sisi and the other Sabahi. I know because I have a small black and white television.”

Mostafa Awadallah does not care much about the electoral programs of the candidates, “Why should I watch what they say when I’ve decided not to vote. At the end, none of what is being said will happen.”

Saeed Sadek, a professor of political sociology, draws back the tendency of voters to boycott to “historic reasons.” He added, “The people did not vote for 60 years, believing that going or not will not make a difference.”

“After the January uprising, some started to feel the value of their vote, but the majority still felt frustration,” Sadek said.

Source : Aswat Masriya