Interviews at polling stations: The meaning of a "yes" vote

Lamia Hassan

Millions of Egyptians voted in favor of the constitutional referendum, but what they are actually voting in favor of could be very different from the constitution and its articles. Dozens of men queued outside their polling station in Dokki before it opened. The men, most of whom are originally from other cities, seemed excited about the process. The mood was festive. In a very long line of men, some were chanting and some were waving flags. On the other side of the station, a group of ladies from different ages wait to vote, but their numbers are much fewer than the men. One female voter from Minya said she believed people came to vote "yes" against the Muslim Brotherhood. Another voter from Assiut said many were voting "yes" to end violence or support General Abdel Fatah El-Sisi. Mary Salah, who is a student at Cairo University from Alexandria, said she was not sure of the future, but she was optimistic about the voting process and the results. “Look around you at all the people who are there early to vote,” Salah said. “I'm optimistic about the results and it will hopefully pass without more violence.” Not far away from the polling station, Abdel Maqsoud Mohamed stood across from the garage off Galaa Street where he works. He walked around asking the neighbors and passersby if they voted or not. He raised his inked finger proudly, showing everyone around that he voted. Mohamed, who is originally from Sharqiya, said that he didn't care to vote in the past felt that things changed. “I am saying 'yes' to Egypt's welfare and I am voting for tomorrow, for security and for future generations,” he said. “I am not asking for a lot, just a better nation for the coming generations.” He said he urged his wife and three daughters in Sharqiya to vote. He said he was voting for security and a better economy for Egypt. “Prior to June 30 and the revolution in 2011, the constitution was not very important for average Egyptians, but today they care to know about it,” said Said Sadek, political sociology professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC). “It's not really about the articles, as indicated in Baseera's poll that only 5% [of Egyptians] read all the articles of the constitution.” Sadek said that people were voting to end the transitional period, voting "yes" because they feel national security is threatened. Some were voting to support General Abdel Fatah El-Sisi because they feel Egypt needs a strong leader. On the first day of the referendum, women outside Abu Bakr El-Seddik said they came to vote despite of violence on the streets to prove that bomb threats and explosions would not stop them from casting their votes. They said they came to voice their opinion against violence and say they want Egypt to go back to how it was in the past. One woman held a poster indicating she's voting "yes" for stability. Another woman said she was voting because she does not feel safe in her country and opposes violence involving the Muslim Brotherhood. “On the first day, the polling stations witnessed a very high turnout of women because last year they felt their rights were threatened and they want to end that now,” says Sadek. Niveen Mofeed El Ebiary, a programs manager at the American University in Cairo (AUC), said she took time to read almost all the articles in the constitution. She had a few criticisms of them, but said it would not stop her from voting "yes" to the constitution. “I trust the committee that put the constitution and I read most of it,” she said. “And, there will never be a constitution that pleases everyone 100%.” On the other side of town, Rady Guirguis, who works at Maadi Hospital, said that the Ahmed Shawky polling station in Matareya was festive and organized. He said he voted "yes" for the sake of the country and national security. “When you feel that it's not safe for your daughters to be on the streets, you have to vote 'yes' to end this nightmare we live in right now and move on,” he says.