Egyptians wait for upper house poll with mixed expectations

09:12, May 31, 2010      

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At Arabisc cafe in Kasr El-Ani Street, on the same street of the Shura Council (the upper house) in Cairo, sat Azza Mohammed and her friends talking about the upcoming elections.

Egypt's Shura Council mid-term elections will be held on Tuesday with around 30 million voters to elect 88 candidates in the 264-member council.

"I used to go to elect the one I think appropriate and suitable for the position," said Azza Mohammed, a 55-year-old housewife.

Counselor Intisar Nessim, head of the Higher Election Commission, said 452 candidates, including 11 women, will contend in the polls in 55 constituencies.

In order to attract voters' attention and gain their support, Cairo's streets are full of banners with the names and electoral slogans of candidates.

However, many people show little interest in these banners, as they prefer to see their candidates on TV through talk show programs to review electoral programs.

They also prefer to see them debate on the small screen and discuss how they will deal with the country's domestic and foreign issues such as education and the Nile water problem.

"I prefer watching the candidates on TV while they are reviewing their electoral programs," said Salama Ahmed, a 38-year- old civilian engineer.

To gain more votes, the candidates hold conferences in every governorate with their supporters.

The ruling National Democratic Party held a public conference in Cairo Friday to lobby for support from its candidates.

PARTICIPATION

Many Egyptians are reluctant to participate in the election process, especially among the youths, as they see it useless.

"I hope the election will bring some positive changes," said Waleed saad, a 27-year-old accountant.

Only 15 percent of voters participated in the previous mid-term Shura Council elections, according to the higher election commission.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has urged Egyptians on Friday to participate in the elections.

Meanwhile, the formal TV channels launched a media campaign to persuade voters to participate positively in making the country's policies.

The campaign, in which some famous actors took part, contained enthusiastic expressions such as "Be positive and participate with your vote", " If you want to change, do it through the poll boxes" and "Participate making your country's decisions".

"Unfortunately, in every round of elections, the candidates come to us promising many services and advantages, which will evaporate after one of them wins the elections," said Ismael Sayyed, a 48-year-old teacher.

GAME RULES

The higher election commission said that all candidates should abide by the maximum expenditure limit of 200,000 Egyptian pounds (about 36,000 U.S. dollars) for campaigning.

On Wednesday, the commission said it will take necessary legal actions against any one who violates the instructions.

The country's law stipulates that the candidate should not use state-owned buildings, facilities and means of transportation in the election propaganda in any form.

The law also bans the use of public utilities, place of worship, schools, universities and other public or private educational institutions for the election propaganda purposes.

"The elections will be monitored by the higher election committee, which has a number of senior judges," Shura Council Speaker Safwat el Sherif said.

The higher election commission has also allowed some of non- governmental organization representatives to follow up the elections.

The commission has decided to hire 175,000 staffers to supervise 35,000 sub-committees that have been formed for the Shura Council's mid-term elections. "I will go this time and cast my vote trying to change the future of my children," said Azza Mohammed.

Source: Xinhua (by Wael Naguib)
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