Religious propaganda spreads at polling stations

Amid a large presence of campaigners affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, thousands of voters streamed to the polls Saturday in Giza to vote on proposed amendments to the 1971 Constitution, marking rare fair elections in Egypt’s political history.

The Brotherhood, according to eyewitnesses, called for imams to speak in front of the polling stations about the benefits of voting “yes”.

“I saw two imams arguing with people, citing religious quotes that support the Brotherhood views concerning the constitutional amendments,” said Fathi Salem, shop owner in the poor working class district of Moneeb.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak, along with the former ruling National Democratic Party are the main backers of the amendments, which are rejected by other opposition forces, such as the presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, who are calling for a new constitution.

“We haven’t recruited anybody. We’ve just called the people to come and tell their opinion first and what we are doing now is to discuss with people about the benefits of saying yes,” argued Hani Said, a lawyer affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The return of full judicial supervisors, having presidents with limited terms, the limitations of State of Emergency and respect of the Court rulings,” read some of the pros written in a statement signed by the Muslim Brotherhood and distributed by Said and his colleagues.

Many people in the working class district of Sakiet Makey said that they voted in favor of the proposed amendments.

“It is because people want security and stability in the society. They also want a fair parliament to be elected in order to represent them,” argued Said who was speaking at the polling station at Ahmed Shawki School under an MB banner reading “Vote yes to obtain stability and end the chaos.”

Sakiet Makey is a poor area represented by both Mohamed Abou al-Enein, a prominent member of Mubarak's NDP party and a business tycoon, and Hamdy Temaa, another NDP figure.

“They are all gone. A few months ago [during November parliamentary elections] this area was overwhelmed by Abou al-Enein and his NDP fake supporters. But now there are only real Egyptians who care about the future of their country,” said Mansour Abu al-Hassan, a plumber and Brotherhood supporter from Sakiet Makey.

Abou al-Enein is being investigated on allegations of misconduct and corruption.

He was accused by activists of being one of the masterminds behind the infamous the “Battle of the Camels" on 2 February when Mubarak supporters stormed Tahrir Square, attacking protesters.

“Nothing is left for the NDP in Giza except shame. They are absent because they cannot show up in front of the people. The Egyptian people are the winners and the blood of our martyrs is not going to be in vain,” said Abu Al-Hassan.

Amged Mourice, a Coptic student who came along with members of his family to vote said that “The MB ridiculed the revolution in the beginning and now they are coming to benefit from it.”

He added, “I’m going to say ‘no’ because we deserve a new constitution that guarantees the civility of the state.”

Scores of Copts and women stood in long queues, saying that there has been no harassment or intimidation by police forces, however, they complained about the slowness of the referendum process.

"I have been standing in this line for almost half an hour and it seems that I’m going to wait for another half hour, but I’m happy for this country. We are making a difference,” said Hanan Alfy, a teacher who was waiting at the polling station at Saad Zaghloul School in Giza.

Women and men stood in separate queues in order to facilitate the voting process and to make the conditions safer for women, said Ahmed Motassem, a government employee responsible for the polling station at Moneeb Preparatory School.

A campaigner affiliated with the MB said that they are standing in front of the school doors determined to prevent any irregularities that might happen during the vote.

“I’m not speaking because I’m a Muslim Brotherhood member. I’m speaking because I’m Egyptian and I’m going to help the military forces in having fair and peaceful elections,” said student Mohamed Younis.

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