Egyptian views on strike and poll
|Friday, April 11,2008 13:09|
A heavy police presence helped ensure that a general strike went largely unheeded across Egypt on Sunday. Organisers wanted to protest against the soaring cost of food - and the restriction of opposition candidates in local elections on Tuesday.
Four Egyptians give their opinion on Sunday"s attempted strike action - and why they won"t bother voting on Tuesday. It was very strange to see the streets of Cairo so quiet on Sunday.It took me just 15 minutes to drive to work instead of the usual 45 - there were no traffic jams. There was hardly anyone waiting at the bus stops. I work in a very big bank. Most of us came to work - I think those who didn"t were just staying at home to avoid trouble.
However I think there is support for the strikers, because of the huge price rises. The action yesterday was about boycotting shops, to try to force shopkeepers to lower their prices. Most of my colleagues didn"t buy anything. A friend I drove home said she"d wait until today to fill her car with petrol. Here at the bank they are increasing our salaries from next month - to avoid trouble. Other people don"t have this privilege, they have to queue for subsidised bread.
We have a maid that comes to our house to clean for two hours every day. She does this after a full day"s work as a nurse in hospital - she is the sole breadwinner for her three children. She tells me she feeds them macaroni or rice everyday, instead of meat, or chicken or fish, which is more expensive. I doubt she was striking yesterday. Will I vote in local elections on Tuesday? No. I am not registered, I have never voted before.
I"m not going to leave work and queue at the polling station - only for my vote not to be counted anyway. I think the strike was useless, it didn"t really work and it won"t change anything. People weren"t going to risk their job, or even risk upsetting their boss over it. The government will try to prove that strike action is never effective. Of course, it would be better for everyone if food was cheaper, but you can"t achieve this by going on strike. I bought bread and I put petrol in the car on my way home from work on Sunday.
Our dear Egypt will never change, with all the bad things. We will keep on talking, sometimes shouting, but actually do anything? No way. Are there elections on Tuesday? I had no idea.
I went to my university faculty as normal on Sunday. Only about 20 out of the 70 or so students showed up. The professors refused to give lectures to so few of us, so we all went home.The police were everywhere, every step of the way. There were no protests or riots in Alexandria. People were reluctant to go out because of the bad weather and because of the heavy security presence. These forces are not there to protect us, by the way, they are there to suppress us. The police protects the government, but not the normal people walking the streets. My family is not suffering from the price rises like some, because we have enough money, but I think we are obliged to support the strikers. People are suffocating from all the economic problems - and the corruption. [President] Hosni Mubarak has been ruling against the will of the people for more than 25 years now. It"s very humiliating.
Although the strike was not successful, it was important to show the ruling system that no one approves of its regime. We have no democracy, no freedom of thought, we can"t say what we want to say. The ruling party will win in Tuesday"s local elections - no question. So I think most people are reluctant to participate. It"s a nonsense.
I went to my university class on Sunday and I bought coke and cigarettes on the way home!
Where I live, people are quite wealthy and are not so into politics. Neither are the poorer people. They just want to feed their kids. The strike won"t change anything. The government is already doing what it can do to provide cheaper food for people. The shopkeeper has little say in how much he charges, either. If he sells something for five dollars, it"s because he buys it for four dollars fifty. The economic situation is bad all over the world, but here in Egypt we don"t have high enough wages to adapt. I think the Muslim Brotherhood is using the unhappiness of people to try to build political support. But I don"t reach much about the elections and the people taking part. I"m not going to vote. My parents don"t vote. It"s just not the normal thing to do in Egypt.