Tahrir sit-in relatively empty as Egypt votes

CAIRO: The Tahrir sit-in was emptier than usual as protesters headed out to vote on Monday, while hundreds remained behind discussing a call to boycott.

“Tahrir doesn’t really want to boycott the elections; they just want to take power from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF),” Mohamed Khatib, 21, told Daily News Egypt, adding that this parliament will mean a civilian power gets to run the country.

“Revolution was made by 1-5 percent of the population, but when the whole country wants elections, we listen and help,” he added.

Sitting in the Tahrir tent that has become his home this week, Mamdouh Iskandar, 35, said he’s boycotting the elections.

“Parliaments never did a thing for the country; good things don’t need parliament to be achieved,” he said. “We are not selfish; we just want the best for the country, like everyone else.”

In the early afternoon, a group of protesters marched around the square chanting against the elections and calling for a boycott. They said elections would be a scam and the solution is to end military rule.

In the nearby Cabinet sit-in, tens of protesters focused their discussions on the national salvation government and the powers it needed. Protesters inside the pitched tents said they were waiting for their friends, who are voting, to come back so they can go vote later in the day.

Securing the elections to ensure integrity, however, dominated discussions. “Army and police are protecting the elections; they both beat us up exactly a week ago. How can I trust them now?” said Ahmed Hesham, a 22-year-old college student.

Ahmed El-Nahhas, 20, also expressed that the next parliament will not have much power in writing the constitution as long as the supra-constitutional principles stand. The proposed charter would impose a set of article on the constituent assembly chosen by the parliament to draft the new constitutions.

Islam, 30, who was injured in the eye by a rubber bullet during last week’s clashes, said he would boycott the elections since he cannot trust the person who shot him a week ago to secure the elections.

“No one was prosecuted or even accused of killing and injuring many of us. How can people just move on?” he asked.

Abdelmoneim Ibrahim who belongs to the April 6 pro-democracy movement, which helped launch the uprising against Mubarak, said he would only observe the process without taking part.

“I had planned to vote, but that what was before the death of the martyrs on Mohamed Mahmoud street,” he told AFP, referring to a street leading from Tahrir to the interior ministry where last week’s violence occurred.

On the contrary, Mohamed Gamal, 19, said, “Without my vote, I can’t object later on.”

Sobhy Ibrahim agreed. Instead of the innovative protest placards, the 41-year-old-government employee came to Tahrir on Monday with a box saying “your vote, your right.”

Sobhy told DNE that he believes change will come and SCAF will leave; “it’s only a matter of time until civilians take power.”

Reasons for not voting went beyond the boycott calls. Out of seven vendors in Tahrir, six said they didn’t have national IDs and thus couldn’t vote. “I will see how this election goes and maybe I will join next time,” said Ismail, a 29-year-old who sold snacks in the iconic square. Another vendor selling cigarettes and water said, “I don’t have two to three hours to waste to elect someone who will not help me at all.”

While others do not object to elections, they do reject the candidates running.

“Some friends and I have decided to cross out our ballot papers to show that we do not want any of these people,” said Oum Moez, a shop owner who spent several nights in Tahrir.

Activists reacted angrily when a high court ruling on Nov. 14 allowed members of Mubarak’s now dissolved National Democratic Party to run in the elections.

“I don’t know these candidates nor the parties, but anyway, most belonged to the former regime so I will not participate,” said 21-year-old student Abdelrahman.

In the garden in the middle of the square, Bahya Kasseb, 43, emerges from the tent where she has camped out for several days.

“They can do whatever they want with their elections, but me, I will not vote. I will express my demands from here, in Tahrir,” she snapped.

Loai Nagati, activist and blogger who is still part of the Cabinet sit-in, said elections will help the revolutionary stream. “We need to get the good people in the parliament, that’s why we should vote.” -Additional reporting by AFP.

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