At 10.30 am there were more people gathered around the Sudan Street courthouse in Imbaba then there were queuing up to vote in the polling station 500 metres away.
The rabble of about 80 people, animated and exuberant, were overlooked by what remains of the courthouse’s facade, destroyed shortly after 7 am this morning when a device of some kind exploded outside it.
A young man in a fast food establishment swept up glass, as in front of him a fireman on top of a giant ladder pulled down debris hanging dangerously from the courthouse front. Old graffiti, “ACAB” (All Cops are Bastards) and “Tamarod,” the name of the popular movement that produced the June 30 protests was scrawled on the building. Traffic cut through the crowd, bus drivers beeped out support, passengers gave the thumbs up. One man held up a copy of the Quran in one hand, a picture of Head of the Armed Forces Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in another. The crowd banged on the side of the bus in assent.
Khaled Taher, head of the North Giza Prosecution, said that the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device, and that no one was injured. It was a show of defiance, people said. They would not be frightened. No one knows who is behind the action, but the protesters had already made their minds up.
“It’s the terrorists, who else would do this,” one woman said, refusing to expand further.
After a bombing targeting a security directorate in the Delta city of Mansoura that killed 16 people on December 24, 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization by the government the next day. No evidence has been produced proving the group’s responsibility for the bombing, which was condemned by the Brotherhood in a public statement.
Some media outlets reported today that the Brotherhood had made threats of violence in order to frighten people into not voting.
Twenty-eight-year-old Nasser Arabi, who runs a kiosk in front of the court, witnessed the explosion. He said that a street sweeper had been lingering in front of the court and then “suddenly disappeared.” Two minutes later the bomb went off, Arabi said.
Arabi opined that the bombing would have the “opposite of its intended effect” and that people who hadn’t planned on taking part in the referendum would go out to cast their vote “in defiance,” and would vote “yes.” Arabi himself intended to vote “yes,” and used a poster next to him, a triptych of former presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar al- Sadat next to Sisi to explain why.
“Would you give your car to someone who doesn’t know how to drive?” he asked. Then he pointed at the poster. “They, the military, know how to drive. They know how to run Egypt,” he continued.
Arabi has great faith in Sisi, who he said was “sent” to put Egypt back on track. “The dust of his shoes is on my head. He protects Egypt.”
Down the road at the Madrasat al-Shaheed Gawad Hosny polling station, 46-year-old Emad Abdel Raouf — a welder who is currently unemployed — echoed Arabi, saying that the bombing would increase the voter turnout.
Abdel Raouf voted “yes” because he read and agreed with the constitution. He had previously voted “no” in the 2012 referendum, because he didn’t agree with its provisions or with the composition of the committee that had drawn it up.
Hassan Abdel Meneim, who worked in the tourist sector before retiring, also voted “yes.” He agreed with “95 percent of the constitution,” only disagreeing with the draft’s provisions on the defense minister and the degree of immunity it grants the holder of the post.
As Abdel Meneim spoke, behind him a man came out of the polling station with both arms in the air smiling and shouting, “fuck the Brotherhood.”
It was a similar scene in other areas of Imbaba; a mood of quiet triumph in the streets, a low turnout, and wall-to-wall, “yes.”
In Medan Street, a vendor standing next to a motorbike roared out, “who wants Sisi?” On the seat of his motorbike were pictures of the defense minister with the slogan, “the army and the people are one hand” written on it. People were wearing the badges on their foreheads or strung around their necks.
In answer to the vendor’s question, 57-year-old Sayed Badawi said that he wants Sisi. “Al Sisi ra’eesy” (Sisi is my president) he declared, happily. Voting “yes” would bring stability, he said. Badawi had also voted “yes” in the 2012 referendum because he thought that would bring stability, too.
“I was duped. They fooled us,” he laughed.
A child of about seven-years-old, Abdel-Rahman, appeared outside the Shorouq School in Ard al-Gama’aeya, Imbaba in full military dress. His mother photographed him as a soldier looked on and smiled. At another polling station a family posed for a portrait. One girl wearing a Sisi badge on her head was instructed by her mother to raise two fingers in a victory sign.
There were young men in fluorescent jackets outside nearly every polling station. On the jackets was written, “The Campaign for the Nation’s Future.” They offered guidance to confused voters at the doors of polling stations, in apparent cooperation with the police and army.
Mostafa Badran, a member of the Committee of 50 — which drew up the draft constitution — as a representative of the Students’ Union is the movement’s founder. On January 12, it held a seminar in Abbasseya, Cairo, in which it handed out copies of the constitution on the cover of which was written, vote “yes.” Its Alexandria Facebook page states that the movement’s objectives are to, “support the constitution and the roadmap.”
The absence of “no” voters might be attributable to a number of factors: Those not in favor of the draft may be boycotting — the April 6 Youth Movement and Strong Egypt party have announced they are boycotting — or perhaps even frightened to be the lonely “no” voters in a roaring sea of “yes.” In any case, public expressions of “no” were silent, written on walls in graffiti saying “No to your belly dancers’ constitution” and “No to your constitution of blood.”