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Thursday, May 26, 2005

I tried to vote (updated)

Yesterday I entered a polling station for the very first time in my life. Regardless of what I and others think about this whole issue, I consider what happened yesterday to be historical as far as I am concerned. Little me left work early to go to vote on the constitution changes!

Let me tell you what happened before explaining why I actually made the decision to go and vote even after receiving countless ridiculing from my colleagues and the possibility now of being labeled as a “traitor” and “someone who sold off” by several Egyptian bloggers.

I felt a little bit apprehensive when I entered the premise. However, the place was organized and tidy with average attendance. I took out my ID and wondered around not knowing where to go. I saw a lady standing in front of a polling station, I reckoned that she was among the poll workers and so I approached her for assistance.

“Good evening, where do I go to vote?” I asked
“Do you have a voting card?” she asked
“No, I heard that we can vote with our normal ID” I replied.
“Well, it is a must to have a voting card but today we allow voting with ID because you know it is just voting on the constitutional amendment, but you have to get your voting card for the presidential elections. Now stand in this queue because this polling station is for women only” she said.
“But I can’t see any women, don’t they want to vote?” I laughed.
“No, women came in the morning and it is your (i.e men) turn to vote after returning from work” she answered.

I stood in the queue and discovered that nearly all those who were standing with me were carrying a purple voting card. I didn’t want to stand all this long and later discover that what the lady told me was not correct and so I flashed my ID card and asked the judge inside in a loud voice “Can I vote with my ID, I don’t have a voting card?”

The judged looked at me and stayed silent for a few seconds before telling me that the voting card is a must. “Welcome to typical Egyptian contradictory information” I told myself.

I sensed someone tugging on my shoulders. I turned and saw a guy who told me “go downstairs, there are several empty polling stations, you will vote there”

I went downstairs and entered an empty polling station. I then approached the judge who was supervising the ballot box and handing out the ballots.

“Good evening, I want to vote with my ID because I don’t have a voting card” I said.
The guy stayed silent for a few seconds (just as the judge upstairs did) before requesting to see my ID.
“Your name starts with a G, sorry you cannot vote” he answered with a sad look on his face.
“Sir, does that mean that all those with G names will not vote??” I asked.
“No they will. OK, go to the next poll station. G is there” he answered.

I took my ID and my “G name” and went to the other poll station. I had the same conversation with the judge there before I asked him “Sir, can I vote with my ID or not?”
“ummmmmmm, No” he answered. “OK, bye” I said. I left because I finally knew that everyone was throwing the responsibility on the other.

Why didn’t they accept ID even though I am sure that several voters managed to vote without owning a voting card? I have no clue. At least I had the intension of voting and I actually saw a polling station! That’s an achievement.

Why I tried to vote?

-I believe it was a major first step no matter what you might think about the actual amendment.
-I am against regime change in Egypt at the current moment but I am for pressuring the regime to lift its hands off opposition figures especially the liberals/progressives/secularists. My only hope is to see this group garner a popular base in Egypt in order to somehow counter the influence of the islamists, if that didn't happen within the coming few years, then I am definitely out of the country.

-Voting is fun, I wanted to try it.

Now I didn't know of the anti-Mubarak demonstration and what some Mubarak supporters did until I went home and switched on the TV. I was shocked really and I am totally against what happened. Beating demonstrators in front of live TV surely tarnished the image of all Egypt besides that this was just plain wrong. However, I still believe I made the right decision by going to the poll station with the intension to vote "Yes" for the constitutional changes.

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