It was around 7 PM Cairo time when I incidentally passed by an election rally set up by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhoods political wing. Conditioned no doubt by having grown up during Mubarak’s rule, I involuntarily walked away. Then, after actively reminding myself that elections were only a few days away, I headed back to see what they had to say.
The makeshift rally consisted of a pickup truck which housed a giant display board and a few wooden steps on the side. Instead of recitations from the Holy Quran the speakers churned out patriotic songs “ya belady, ya belady, ana bahebik ya belady”. The setup was simple but impressive.
There wasn’t a bearded man in sight. A large table was propped up beside the truck around which a group of passersby were busy writing things on bits of colored paper. A middle aged man offered spectators a pen and asked them to write down a dream they had for their country and to stick up on the display board. The mood was festive and Egyptians scribbled away their hopes for a better tomorrow.
Behind me I overheard another FJP member talking to a bystander. This man spoke in an accent commonly associated with rural Egypt and was dressed in a traditional Egyptian galabeya. “People think that the Brothers will set this country on fire and force women to wear the veil. It’s not true!” The young listener nodded his head looking slightly embarrassed.
Inside the truck hopeful Egyptians were lifting their little ones to fix their dreams on the pin-board. A photographer snapped away behind me. I took a few photos myself and then headed back to the table after I noticed a young man filling what appeared to be a form. “Acquaintance Card” was written at top of the page as the young man filled in his contact details.
A group of young girls were handing out pamphlets. I asked for one and was met with a welcoming smile. It read “FJP – You ask and we reply”. The title was followed by a series of simple questions and short bulleted replies.
“Who are you?”
- We are the Freedom and Justice Party a civil party with an Islamic orientation…
“Where were you before the revolution?”
- The Brotherhood has been always been engaged in cultural, and educational community services and …
“What do you mean by a civil party with an Islamic orientation?”
- As a party we aim to make Egypt a civil state built on the principles of democracy and consultation … with Islamic jurisprudence as a source of reference….
“Why did you choose an Islamic orientation”
- Because in its scope it combines all human values such as freedom, justice and respect for human rights and respect for the rights of non-Muslims….
“Which type of type of rule will you choose… the Taliban model, Iranian model, Sudanese model?
- Each country has its own… The party aims to create a special Islamic Egyptian model…
I could go on forever. In summary they claim they will treat non-Muslims like Muslims except in religious matters and will preach the Hejab but never enforce it because enforcing is the way of the weak. Regarding peace with Israel they claim respect international peace treaties but will aim to review some of its items.
“… And what about Cinema and the arts?”
- The FJP aims to encourage respectable art and refined cinema and abolish distasteful art that is designed to arouse the instincts.
- Music and singing is encouraged within the confines of what is morally acceptable…
“… And will you close the door to tourists?” To which they list the economic advantages of tourism and avoid any reference to alcohol or beach wear.
Then the page went on to discuss what the FJP intend to achieve economically and then lists a set of project names designed for the district they are campaigning for. This is accompanied by their website and facebook address.
The girl, who handed me the pamphlet earlier, came back and supplied me with their candidate brochure. Each page contains two candidates with a photo followed by the candidate’s age, and an impressive list of qualifications.
I stood there thinking quietly. According to the National Voter Survey, conducted and published by Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) in August, a majority (more than half) of voters are still undecided. Thirty one percent (31%) of the decided voters say they will vote for the FJP. Approximately 15% of decided voters said they will vote for the Wafd which has recently broken a controversial electoral alliance with the FJP. According to the poll half of the total electorate sample viewed the FJP favorably while the other half views it unfavorably. This result contrasts with the perceived “Revolutionary Youth Coalition” which came out ahead (44% favorable vs. 24% unfavorable). Interestingly, 17% of decided voters said they would vote for the “Revolutionary Youth Coalition”.
I thanked my hosts and left wondering what our prodemocracy activists have ever done right. … and where were the … “Revolutionary Youth Coalition”?
It shouldn’t matter anyway, I reminded myself, the friendly junta doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.