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As Egyptian town votes, a glimpse of the revolution spurs longing for the past

In a town that was once a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, many Egyptians are voting for former Mubarak ally Ahmed Shafiq in today's presidential election because they say life has been harder since the revolution.

By Correspondent / June 16, 2012



Herreyat Razna, Egypt

Islam Abdel Raheem used to sell three cows a week.

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That was before the uprising in Egypt that forced former President Hosni Mubarak from power. Now, says Mr. Abdel Raheem, standing among the mostly empty meat hooks hanging from the ceiling of his tiny butcher shop, the meat he sells every week only amounts to one and a half or, at most, two cows.

The residents of this small village in the fertile farming region of the Nile Delta are buying less beef because prices are rising. The drop in business is just one of the ways life has deteriorated for Abdel Raheem since the uprising, he says. Another is security.

A few months ago, two men from outside the village killed a resident of Herreyat Razna. A group of villagers took the law into their own hands, beating the assailants to death. The police arrived late, and villagers chased them away so they could finish off the assailants themselves rather than hand them over to police, says Abdel Raheem.

“Before the revolution, the government was strong. It was governing,” he says. “Nobody could raise a gun, or even a dagger. So this never could have happened then. That’s why we need someone from the old system, so he can restore order.”

Abdel Raheem doesn’t curse the uprising, like some here do. But he says it’s made life harder. That’s part of the reason he’ll vote for Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister under Mr. Mubarak, when Egyptians go to the polls today to elect a new president.

The lives of Abdel Raheem and others like him, far from Tahrir Square, help illustrate how it is possible that Egyptians could revolt against the regime, then turn around just a year and a half later and vote someone back to power who represents the same system. To them, Mr. Shafiq’s connection to the past means he also represents their best chance of stability that might improve their daily lives.    

'Shafiq knows politics'

In the first round of Egypt’s presidential elections, Mr. Shafiq earned the most votes in the Sharqiya governorate, which has traditionally been considered a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood. That Shafiq came in ahead of the Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, whose hometown is in Sharqiya, was a shock. But many in the governorate say they plan to vote for him again.

“Shafiq knows politics; he has an awareness of how the system works,” says Abdel Raheem, waving away the dozens of flies buzzing around a worn butcher block. He says he expects prices would drop under a Shafiq presidency, and security would improve. “He knows where all the thieves are located, and he could round them up in one hour.”

Shafiq has promised to restore security within hours of taking office, and that is an appealing promise to many Egyptians. Under Mubarak, police stood on nearly every corner, police stations were feared places of abuse, and crime was low. After the revolt, police withdrew, and crime flourished in their absence. Even now, with most of the police force back on duty, lawlessness is higher than it was in the days of Mubarak.

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