• 08:34
  • Monday ,29 November 2010
العربية

Food, not politics, dominate polls

By-Amr Emam-EG

Home News

00:11

Monday ,29 November 2010

Food, not politics, dominate polls

CAIRO - A few hours before Egyptians head to polling stations to pick their candidates in the nation's most acrimonious vote in years, the electorate's basic needs for jobs, healthcare, and economic stability are reigning supreme over conversations between these voters and the parliamentary hopefuls.

 Absent from these conversations, however, seem to be sophisticated issues of national interest. Whether it is here in the crowded capital Cairo or in the other governorates where rivalry is at its highest, voters do not talk about Egypt's political standing in the region, power transition in it, or even its strained relations with Nile Basic countries over the redistribution of the waters of the Nile. 

     They rather talk about sewage, home construction licences, and subsidised bread whose attainment has become a daily challenge for most Egyptians for some time now.

    "Egyptians are apolitical by nature," said Abdullah el-Senawy, a leftist writer and an outspoken critic of the Egyptian Government.

    "But we must understand where this apathy to politics has originally come from. It comes from the political marginalisation the people of this country suffered for years," he told The Egyptian Gazette in an interview over the phone. 

    This, however, does not seem to be an appropriate time for political apathy, some experts say. As it moves ahead, this country of 80 million is faced with numerous challenges, the future of its presidency being one. 

    Looming large over Egypt's political life for 30 years now, the incumbent President Hosni Mubarak has not said whether he will seek a sixth term in office next year or not.

     Although the 82-year-old President does not talk about it, the future of Egypt's presidency post-Mubarak has been an issue that kept observers and political analysts busy for a long time now.

    But this has never been on the mind of Gamal Selim, a 52 year-old pensioner from Giza. Five years ago, a legislator paid for a group of Selim's neighbours' Hajj, the annual journey Muslims make  to the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. He hopes any of the successful MPs will pay for his Hajj next year. 

    "This is what the people need," Selim said. "People need their basic services," he added. 

   Inherent in Egyptians' keenness on their basic needs is what some observers call the "failure" of the Government to satisfy these needs. 

    Hany Saleh Bekir, a minivan driver from Cairo, thinks the same. He says he will not vote for MPs who disregard needs of the constituents, such as healthcare, jobs, and disputes with policemen. 

    "I want a legislator who will help me regain my driving licence after it is withdrawn from me," Bekir, 39, said. "Major political issues will avail me nothing," he added. 

    Some people like to call Sunday's vote a fight over Egypt's future. Fielding hundreds of candidates, the ruling party says it has a programme for the development of Egypt it wants to complete by winning majority in Parliament. 

    Other opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which managed to win a fifth of the seats of Parliament in the 2005 elections, say the ruling party has but destroyed Egypt's economy by its free-market economic policies and state-asset privatisation programme. 

    Voter turnout expectations are low, but some people still think that money, family, and tribal considerations will have the prime say in the vote.

   Reports by election monitoring groups have already cited rampant violence in the pre-vote phase and extreme bribery of the voters.

Absent from these conversations, however, seem to be sophisticated issues of national interest. Whether it is here in the crowded capital Cairo or in the other governorates where rivalry is at its highest, voters do not talk about Egypt's political standing in the region, power transition in it, or even its strained relations with Nile Basic countries over the redistribution of the waters of the Nile. 

     They rather talk about sewage, home construction licences, and subsidised bread whose attainment has become a daily challenge for most Egyptians for some time now.

    "Egyptians are apolitical by nature," said Abdullah el-Senawy, a leftist writer and an outspoken critic of the Egyptian Government.

    "But we must understand where this apathy to politics has originally come from. It comes from the political marginalisation the people of this country suffered for years," he told The Egyptian Gazette in an interview over the phone. 

    This, however, does not seem to be an appropriate time for political apathy, some experts say. As it moves ahead, this country of 80 million is faced with numerous challenges, the future of its presidency being one. 

    Looming large over Egypt's political life for 30 years now, the incumbent President Hosni Mubarak has not said whether he will seek a sixth term in office next year or not.

     Although the 82-year-old President does not talk about it, the future of Egypt's presidency post-Mubarak has been an issue that kept observers and political analysts busy for a long time now.

    But this has never been on the mind of Gamal Selim, a 52 year-old pensioner from Giza. Five years ago, a legislator paid for a group of Selim's neighbours' Hajj, the annual journey Muslims make  to the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. He hopes any of the successful MPs will pay for his Hajj next year. 

    "This is what the people need," Selim said. "People need their basic services," he added. 

   Inherent in Egyptians' keenness on their basic needs is what some observers call the "failure" of the Government to satisfy these needs. 

    Hany Saleh Bekir, a minivan driver from Cairo, thinks the same. He says he will not vote for MPs who disregard needs of the constituents, such as healthcare, jobs, and disputes with policemen. 

    "I want a legislator who will help me regain my driving licence after it is withdrawn from me," Bekir, 39, said. "Major political issues will avail me nothing," he added. 

    Some people like to call Sunday's vote a fight over Egypt's future. Fielding hundreds of candidates, the ruling party says it has a programme for the development of Egypt it wants to complete by winning majority in Parliament. 

    Other opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which managed to win a fifth of the seats of Parliament in the 2005 elections, say the ruling party has but destroyed Egypt's economy by its free-market economic policies and state-asset privatisation programme. 

    Voter turnout expectations are low, but some people still think that money, family, and tribal considerations will have the prime say in the vote.

   Reports by election monitoring groups have already cited rampant violence in the pre-vote phase and extreme bribery of the voters.