Follow our rolling blog for coverage of protests in Egypt, from Rachel Aspden, Avi Asher-Schapiro and other correspondents in Cairoby Prospect / December 8, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
8TH DECEMBER 2011
Microbuses are Cairo’s most democratic form of transport—the battered white Nissans or Volkswagens carry workers, students and street vendors through the city’s snarled traffic for LE1-2 (10-20p) a ride. This week, with most of Cairo voting in run-offs and the rest waiting to go to the polls next week, the conversation on their packed, wobbly bench seats is all of democracy.
Results from the first round of voting have been a triumph for Islamist parties, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party securing around 36 per cent of the vote and the hardline Salafi Nour party a surprising 24 per cent. The fragmented, poorly organised liberal parties that led the revolution have been largely routed. But there is little sympathy for them on the buses.
In Giza, the western district of Cairo that will vote on 14th and 15th December, a neatly bearded man of around 50 jumps on board at an intersection festooned with colourful campaign posters and long banners that flutter across six lanes of gridlocked vehicles.
“I don’t need to see these posters, I already know who I’m voting for,” he announces. In contrast to the loud chatter and disagreement on the seats around him, he is completely calm. “I’m voting for the Muslim Brotherhood. But I haven’t always been a supporter of theirs.”
“I’ll admit, I’m a felool,” he says, using the derogatory term for the “remnants” of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. “In the last two elections I voted for my cousin, who was a member of parliament in Mubarak’s party, the NDP. But at that time we were all working within the system, and we supported individuals, not parties—I knew my cousin was a good man, so I voted for him. Many, many people—perhaps most—are like me, though they won’t admit it now.”
“Since the revolution we’ve had no security. I had to go out on the street with the men from my neighbourhood to protect our houses. People began to buy guns to defend themselves—before the revolution you needed a license, but now anyone can buy them on a street corner. Prices start at LE1,000 (£100)—you can get machine-guns, anything.”