Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Egyptians speak out about problems

Economic problems and unemployment are the major problems facing voters as they choose their next president September 7.
More than 1,000 Egyptians from all over the country - the Northern Delta, Upper Egypt, Cairo, Alexandria and rural areas - were asked to talk about the three biggest problems they face.
The sample results indicated that economic problems were named by 58 % of citizens. Second is unemployment, for 53 % of people. Education ranked third for 28 %, health was fourth at 23%, roads and transportation was fifth, also at 23% and corruption was sixth at 21 percent, while other problems like security, police violation and domestic violence, foreign interference and freedom are concerns for citizens to lesser degrees.
In the sample, less than half said they would vote, most commonly citing disinterest or a belief their vote won’t count, despite a law requiring eligible Egyptians to cast their ballots.

What I would say directly to the president...

A 70-year-old Alexandria resident has this message for the president: “You have plundered the country, leaving nothing to the poor. We do not want this government in place; we want a fair government.” Noura Muhammad, a 35-year-old beggar from Aswan, said she has three children and could not find a job, so she had to go begging together with her nine-year-old daughter, Nagafa. Asked what she would tell the president if she met him, she smiled and said sarcastically, “Why should I meet him? Will his guards let me meet him? They would kill me [if I tried].”

They yearn for elections, but many won’t vote

Although Egyptians say they are yearning to choose their president, less than half of them plan to vote in the country’s first contested presidential elections, according to interviews with more than 1,000 Egyptians in August.

Economic problems top list of complaints

“We cannot make ends meet.” “We crave the past and the prices of the past.” “Private tutoring has emptied our pockets.” “Our children stay idle at home with no work, no jobs.” These topped the list of woes from Egyptians who identified “economic problems” as the biggest problem in Egypt as it faces the upcoming presidential elections Sept 7.

No job = second-wife status

A 30-year-old woman in Upper Egypt who graduated from Assiut University’s law school recently applied to a group called the Pro-polygamy Society in Cairo to become a second wife. She is now waiting for them to send her a married man to meet, and if he likes her, she will become his second wife. She had to do this, she said, because most of the men her age in her state of Minya are unemployed and so is she.

The corruption we know

Gamal Sayid, a restaurant owner in Ataba in downtown Cairo, says, “The corruption I know is embodied in the District and Health inspectors who use their powers to overburden us, forcing us to bribe them or else they write reports against us and we end up paying fines or our shops, which are our sole source for our own and our children’s livelihood, are closed down. No one can say “no” to them or fail to pay them."

Children don't learn anything in school

Key questions asked by Egyptians concern what the government has done in the last 25 years for education. Has it built new schools? Upgraded teaching standards? Has it improved technology or made the schools more attractive for Egypt’s children?

Long lines for little health care

Contaminated blood, lack of hospital beds, rising medicine prices and negligence on the part of doctors and nursing staffs – these are the major elements of the citizen dossier on health care.

Security: Sometimes present, sometimes absent

Domestic violence, police violations, crime - the lives of many Egyptians are touched by these safety concerns.

Revoking the emergency law

Presidential candidates are saying they will revoke Egypt's emergency law if elected. But would this stop abuses of power?

Free and fair election a high standard to reach

Many Egyptians say they won't vote because they think the election will be unfair. What are the international standards for free and fair elections?