My Vote

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It started 16 months ago with a bang–one hell of a wonderful euphoric bang that left me giddy for months. Now it feels like it’s ending with a whimper.

My visit to a polling station today felt like the ultimate anti-climactic let-down ending. Everything was downbeat. I visited my usual converted schoolroom in Giza for the third time in 7 months. It was nearly 8 pm, and the polls would be open for another two hours. The voting hours were abruptly extended today until 10 pm, but tellingly the extension wasn’t to accommodate the long lines of voters; it was to encourage more people to come out amid apparently plummeting turnout numbers. Everything was quiet and businesslike. There seemed to be maybe 10 other voters split between multiple classrooms. It was all over in about 3 minutes.

In the parliamentary elections last December and the first round presidential vote last month, I felt overwhelmed by choices–almost to the point of paralysis. Now I felt constrained and restricted. The two faces on the ballot seemed to mock me. I hated these choices, and I wasn’t alone.

“I feel like I’m not actually here to vote FOR something. I’m voting against something horrible. I think a lot of people are doing the same thing today,” said Ahmed Adel, a 32-year old carpenter walking out of the station with me. He wouldn’t say just who he voted for (or against). Maybe it didn’t matter.

I felt the same way. I voted today for a post-revolutionary Egyptian president. But I didn’t actually vote FOR anyone.

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Secular Troublemakers See a Looming Crackdown

This tweet from socialist activist Gigi Ibrahim captures the sentiment.

 

 

It’s not that far-fetched. The idea is that Ahmed Shafiq, as president, would unleash the security hounds in the name of stability–with a revenge-seeking Interior Ministry eager to settle some scores. But what’s different this time is that the regime wouldn’t be able to slap around the Muslim Brotherhood with impunity anymore. Even if they end up outmanuevered–controlling neither the parliament nor the executive branch–the Brotherhood has grown too big and too legitimate to be subject to Mubarak-style mass roundups. Which leaves April 6, and the Revolutionary Socialists and the labor activists–basically anybody who falls under the umbrella of “non-brotherhood revolutionary.”

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Why Egypt’s Revolution Has Failed

Analysis and extended Animal Farm analogy courtesy of Liberal Koshari, who writes:

“We have no constitution, parliament or president yet we have a judiciary in the back pocket of the generals, a state media that continues to spread army propaganda and a recently issued decree by Ministry of Justice that gives the army the right to arrest civilians.”

and

“So do we get another chance to do it right? On one hand the people are mentally and physically exhausted. They would not go back to Tahrir to challenge the army and demand real democracy. Also  Tahrir lost the Christians who, like in Syria, see more stability and safety in army led regimes after the fiasco of Islamists in the parliament and seculars fragmentation. More importantly seculars and revolutionaries need to acknowledge their mistakes and adjust as needed, however all indicators show a lack of reflection on the past to develop a clear vision and agree on a strategy with clear implementation modalities.”

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And some afternoon links….

*The Egypt Independent reports that citizens are lining up in Minya! Just not to vote.

*The Arabist and Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros each provide heartbreaking dispatches on why this election feels so depressing.

*At least the vote-spoiler contingent is showing a sense of humor today. @themiinz over at the Egypt Independent’s liveblog performs a wonderful public service by gathering a hilarious collection of spoiled ballots

*My single favorite ballot spoiler. Vote Batman!

*Election Day 2 in pictures.

*Couple days old but worth a read: Charles Holmes in Foreign Policy on the Five Stages of Egypt’s Revolution.

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Egypt’s Day Two Dynamics

As a sweltering and generally low-attended day 2 of the Egyptian presidential runoff grinds to a close, Sunday is starting to feel like an unexpected calm before multiple storms. The real action should start late tonight as the campaigns start putting out their own predictions and accusations and the multiple public affairs shows weigh in.

Here’s a list of issues and dynamics to look out for moving forward.

*The turnout:

On the first day of voting Saturday, the voter turnout appeared—according to multiple observers—to be on par with the 46% for first round voting last month. But Sunday’s numbers appear to have plummeted around the country. The Egypt Independent reported on Sunday that in the southern province of Minya, the lines outside gas stations were far longer than those in front of polling stations.

This final turnout figure is far more than just a technical footnote; it’s a psychological and emotional barometer of the national mood and a form of political currency for each camp in this conflict.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces badly needs a decent number in order to demonstrate an enduring public mandate and faith in the transitional process so far.

If the turnout drops below 25% for example, it would embolden those critics who would argue that the public has lost faith and enthusiasm in an illegitimate process.

*The Spoiled Ballots:

One of the persistent debates in revolutionary circles for the past month has centered around how best to register their opposition and disgust. The main question has been whether to sit out the vote entirely or deliberately spoil their votes in protest. In the first round presidential vote, around 400,000 ballots were invalidated. It’s impossible to know how many of those were mistakenly filled out and how many deliberately ruined. But if that number leaps dramatically this time around, while the overall turnout stays static or drops, we’ll know the spoil-your-vote campaign had an impact.

*The Vote Count:

For the multi-round parliamentary elections last winter, ballot boxes were trucked to a central location and unsealed there. But a change was instituted for the presidential rounds—with the counts now taking place onsite. Theoretically, this eliminated the logistical and security hassle of trucking these boxes around the country while keeping them secure. But it also seems ripe for abuses since there’s so many more locations for monitors and observers to cover. Look for widespread allegations on both sides, especially given how close this vote is expected to be.

*The Orphaned 40 Percent:

In a broad sense you can consider the voting bloc of third and fourth place finishers Hamdeen Sabahi and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh to be one larger community—the “non-brotherhood pro-change” camp. They compromise a 40% bloc that probably isn’t thrilled with either run-off option. Some of them will boycott or ruin their votes, and the rest will probably hold their noses and vote Moursi. It’s hard to imagine too many from this camp going over to Shafiq.

 

 

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New video alleges to show Shafiq buying support

This just came to us via Borzou Daragahi of the Financial Times. The title declares it: “Shafiq Passing Out Checks to Folool (regime loyalists) in Naga Hammadi”

 

 

It  does show Ahmed Shafiq drinking tea with a group of men who sure do look like a rural folool mafia squad.  Everybody exchanges pleasantries and Shafiq gives a mini speech warning that, “the country is standing on the edge of a cliff.”

Then Shafiq asks for a pen and writes a check to “Sheikh Ibrahim”–the local big fish.

The audio is terrible and Shafiq is often incomprehensible anyway so it’s hard to make out much of what’s being said–which means it’s hard to decide whether anything truly sinister is happening.

Anybody with better audio who wants to try to transcribe, please send it here so we can post it.

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Around the election day tweet-o-sphere

We’ll be honest. So far Day 2 of the Egyptian presidential runoff seems to be going SLOW.

Chalk it up to a combination of one of the hottest days of the year, an uninspiring choice for many voters and (quite possibly) an effective boycott campaign. The real action should kick off later tonight when the vote counting starts and the dueling press conferences begin.

For now, we offer a buffet of relevant tweets to give a sense of how things are going out there.

Yes turnout seems low today

 

 

Meanwhile, hovering Army helicopters seem to be getting on people’s nerves. Maybe folks are just cranky from the heat, but it’s still a notable development. Helicopters are a relative rarity in Cairo–there are no private choppers or news copters like in the US. It’s it’s a helicopter in Egypt, it’s military.

 

 

And finally veteran Egyptian blogger and tweep Big Pharaoh reports on a clever new scare tactic making the rounds today. The references to “Shokhna and North Coast” are social code for elite vacation hotspots where the rich and hedonistic go to play. “Vote Shafik and keep the beach party going!”

 

 

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Day 2–going to be a LONG one

And we’re back!

The polls are open again and tonight’s going to go late as the vote counting starts to trickle in. Here’s a few Morning Coffee links:

*Photographer Jonathan Rashad brings us a nice Day 1 photo gallery

*A nice breakdown of the way Ahmed Shafiq has successfully drawn in Coptic voters terrified of a Brotherhood-led Egypt

*The Lawyers Syndicate is estimating a 15% turnout–which would be disastrous

*A video exploring the “Mubtiloon” campaign–the folks who aren’t boycotting but are deliberately spoiling their ballots in protest

 

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End of the day links and reading

And the polls are finally closed on Day 1 of the Egyptian presidential election runoff. Here’s some links to tide you over until our coverage begins again tomorrow.

*Egypt’s military rulers took further steps toward dissolving parliament today.

*Egypt’s oldest human rights organization reports widespread low-level violations on both sides

*Reuters reports on Egypt’s Old Guard primed for a comeback.

*But the Muslim Brotherhood is claiming victory as well

*Meanwhile in Tahrir Square: depression and alienation

*Today’s rumor-driven electoral scandal: the case of the magic polling place pens.

 

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The looming darkness…

Must-read blogger and Cairo-based analyst The Arabist writes:

“The only thing I see in Egypt’s future is military rule, civil disobedience, and violence. The SCAF is mostly responsible for this, but those who accept this verdict and SCAF taking over legislative powers have their role too. History will remember them.”

The Arabist also shares a video that has been making the rounds this week with Ahmed Shafiq appearing to be either drunk or completely incoherent on a televised interview. The interviewer’s reactions are particularly priceless.

 

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