Egyptians ready to get country back on track (JERUSALEM POST) By NAT FRANK, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 05/25/12)
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CAIRO – As the initial rounds of polling in Egypt’s first
undetermined presidential election continue into their second day,
Egyptians seem ready for their country to get back on track and rise
out of the slump of a failing economy and deteriorating security
“We don’t want anymore protests, they don’t do anything,” says Salim,
an Egyptian man who spent time living and working abroad in Germany,
and who informs me that his wife recently passed away.
“I don’t protest, I have to subsist,” he says, waving his finger at
the surrounding streets.
“It’s vacation now,” he says, referring to long weekend called by the
Egyptian government in order to facilitate voting across the country.
“Where is the work?” On the other side of town, in a mostly
workingclass neighborhood called Sayeda Zeinab, Khaled – a Muslim
preacher who says he broadcasts sermons on television – seems fine
with the added days off.
“Muslims are always on vacation,” he says with a brief chuckle.
He has just voted, and flashes his inked finger proudly in order to
prove it. Khaled – who sports a well-groomed beard and a spotless
galabiya, a traditional Egyptian garment – openly tells me he voted
for the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Mursi, in order to
facilitate the further synthesis of Islamic law with Egypt’s state
“[The Brotherhood] has a fixed program that will govern the people,
and bring freedom,” he says, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood’s
Nahda (renaissance) platform, which aims to reform Egypt’s political
system and bolster the domestic economy in order to diminish Egypt’s
need for foreign aid.
Waving his hands towards the nearby polling station, where hundreds
of men and women wait in separate lines to cast their ballots, Khaled
declares “The revolution continues,” a phrase that marks the walls of
buildings throughout the city.
Meanwhile, in the same neighborhood, a small group of men sit over
cups of tea, puffing away at water pipes, discussing that the
revolution is over.
“Because of the uprising we cannot eat,” says Nabil, who runs a car
service for tourists in the city.
“It’s very bad.”
“No one has money anymore, there is no work,” he adds.
Ayman, a car mechanic who is hanging exhaust pipes from jutting poles
outside his shop next to where Nabil and his friends sit, complains
that even though he keeps his shop open up to 18 hours a day, very
few customers come anymore.
Down the street, a man selling Egyptian fabric with traditional
designs agrees, adding that neither foreign customers nor local ones
have been stopping in for the last year-and-a-half.
January 2012 figures by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization
and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egypt’s official statistical agency, puts
unemployment at 12.4 percent, which is certainly higher than 9.7%
unemployment rate at the same time period in 2010. The last time the
jobless rate was as high as it is today was in 2001.
The wide unemployment, coupled with a security situation many
Egyptians say has made the country increasingly unsafe, makes the
current elections even more pressing.
While the streets of Cairo are always packed, the police presence is
noticeably less than during the later years of Mubarak’s rule. Fights
that sometimes involve dozens of people are breaking out in the
middle of some of the city’s busiest avenues in broad daylight.
Punches are thrown and insults fly, but no police are around to break
up such altercations, which spill off the sidewalk and into the thick
“There can be no change until there is a new president,” Nabil
continues, sitting underneath a hanging picture of Waid Mohamed Abd
Al-Aziz, whom Adel, sitting to Nabil’s right, says was shot dead
during the uprising to oust Mubarak.
Asked whether the slain man was a protester, the three men answer
with a resounding “no,” saying he went down to Tahrir Square “to
Nabil leans in, “he was neither shot by the police nor the army,” and
says today more than ever smuggled weapons have made their way into
the hands of the common Egyptian.
“Just like in Palestine,” says Adel. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
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