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Observations by a Voter Regarding Today's Constitutional Referendum

Posted on the 19 March 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman
Egypt’s New Phase of Democracy- Exercise 1: National Referendum, March 19, 2011

This entry was contributed by blogger Rana Korayem.
[I edited this entry slightly to adjust the English to a more standard style. WMB]The national referendum on the Constitution being held today is one of the first steps toward real democratic transition in Egypt. Amazingly enough, Egyptians, who are usually never up in the early morning on a weekend, stood in queues, each waiting for their turn to vote. Participants were of all eligible age groups, many of which voted for the first time ever as they told media reporters, among which was a 66 year old man. The usual chaos was not there anymore. It was unusual to see Egyptians standing in such long queues, not complaining, but happily smiling. Young people felt very proud. This was evident on everyone’s changed status on Facebook, with positive phrases of happiness and pride.What’s notable is the level of women’s participation in this referendum. Women and young girls in most voting stations were present in larger numbers than men. This was confirmed by the coverage of the local Egyptian TV that announced that women’s participation is unprecedented. Guest analysts also commented on women’s participation and how positive this is. The Egyptian media can be characterized by its gender insensitivity. Seldom does the Egyptian media report on women’s involvement in anything, unless it has to do with cooking, or any other topic that limits their participation to traditional house chores and raising children. It was great to hear the anchor ask the reporter about the level of women’s participation in one of the governorates.Among women’s top fears of public participation is sexual harassment. This referendum was organized well enough, so far, to have separate queues for men and women, respectively. Women were everywhere, and the voting stations were more or less like a community gathering. No harassment incidents are reported to this moment. Very few people interfered in other people’s opinions. Questions regarding “How will you vote?” or attempts to influence one another were very minimal. This reflects the respect that people hold to one another. This is also another step towards democracy that people are actually learning to accept the opposing opinion. Some violations still exist though. According to the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) and the Egyptian Coalition for Civil Education and Women's participation, who monitor the referendum, activists of the Muslim Brotherhood distributed goods, such as oil and rice among voters.  This could be perceived as an attempt to bribe voters, or influence voters to vote yes. 

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