I’ve never voted in a referendum before, in fact I’ve never approached an Egyptian ballot box in anger. The nearest I got was covering the parliamentary elections last year. In one polling station in Helwan the police deigned to let us enter for five minutes there was a man sitting behind a desk having lunch on top of the voters’ register. He put the sandwiches and crisps away hurriedly when he saw the media approaching and picked up a pen and pretended to do work. The ballot box itself had about 10 votes in it.

During the Shoura Council elections in Shubra I watched as ballot boxes were brought to the central counting station, a process not dissimilar to watching a pop idol arriving at a CD signing session, in that the fans (party representatives) mob round the ballot boxes (Justin Bieber) and nobody wants to let them go for a single second, because it doesn’t take long for someone to stuff a ballot box (I now realise this was rather an unfortunate analogy) with NDP votes.

The Interior Ministry has announced that ballot boxes will arrive in polling station empty and leave empty. Votes will be counted on the spot, to reduce the opportunity for Justin Bieber stuffing while party representatives aren’t looking. We will also be allowed to vote using our ID cards, rather than having to produce voting cards. I’m a bit sad about this because I like my voting card a lot. It describes me as a “housewife”

Sarah Marea Carr. Housewife.

In case you care I’m going to vote no to the amendments. I decided this in a split second after reading the proposed amendment to article 75 while frothing at the mouth.

Article 75 currently states that both parents of presidential candidates must be Egyptian. This is a stupid rule, and I feel that the article was originally drafted as follows:

Half-Egyptians are the scum we must share our country with. They are half-blooded, mongrel, half-breed infiltrators who carry extraneous genes. The Watan is not safe in their greasy, spying hands and in any case they cannot be president because their tails would be an eyesore while hosting foreign dignitaries.

The proposed amendment to article 75 reads – in spirit – thusly:

Half-Egyptians are the scum we must share our country with and so are the bastard children of Egyptians who had the stupidity to acquire other nationalities or married whores from other countries thereby strangling at birth their progeny’s political ambitions. This is a way to keep out Ahmed Zoweil and possibly also stifle the presidential aspirations of that nuclear pain in the arse Mohamed ElBaradei because Rose El-Youssef says he’s an American but we’re not sure cos he said on OnTV that he only has one nationality.

If I must be treated like a political untouchable then I want consistency. Don’t let me vote in a race I am not allowed to compete in. And possibly also make me wear a hair coat.

If article 75 wasn’t in the bundle of amendments I would have had more trouble deciding what to vote. I puzzled long and hard as people had fights on Facebook but then luckily got invited to the Doha Debates held at the American University in Cairo on Monday and Essam El-Erian and a bloke from the Wafd party, Sherif Taher, made up my mind for me.

I’ve never been to the recording of a programme before and the whole thing was exciting. Tim Sebastian was mostly a good moderator apart from when he stupidly went on about the Muslim Brotherhood’s position on Jihad against the US and Israel at El-Erian even though this had nothing to do with the motion. AND THEN when a girl in jeggings stood up and started her question/comment with “I come here as a Coptic woman…” Sebastian had the temerity to shoot her down (saying her comment had nothing to do with the motion) in a way that made Coptic Jeggings Woman look like she was going to cry. It was awful.

Marwa Sharaf Eddin and Shahir George who spoke for the motion (“this house believes for the sake of democracy Egypt should postpone the elections”) were very good, El-Erian and Taher less so.

Marwa and Shahir’s main points were that:

– Egypt lacks the infrastructure necessary for meaningful elections

– We need a new constitution

– Which political parties are ready to participate?

– Political parties should take the time to restructure

– Security is still an issue, how can we hold elections when thugs still run rampant

– There does not yet exist a pluralist political environment in Egypt

– How can we have free elections in four months time?

– How can we hold elections under a “miserable” constitution? (The 1971 constitution)

– We must negotiate with the military for a provisional constitution

– We can have a presidential council or interim president who will oversee national dialogue, out of which will come a new constitution

– Tunisia was able to reach consensus during its transitional phase, so can we

– People are already buying votes for the referendum, election irregularities are a concern

Essam and Taher said:

– It’s time to hand power back to civilians

– The army needs to be free to concentrate on external security. The situation in Libya, Sudan and Israel makes Egypt vulnerable

– The army might be forced to make an aggressive move against the counter-revolution

– The 1971 constitution is dead and we should bury it, but the army shouldn’t be in charge of crafting the new constitution. The transition to democracy should happen under a civilian government

– “Perfect is the enemy of good” the longer we wait the more damage we do

– In the presidential council scenario, who will select its members?

– People will not accept rigged elections, so irregularities are not an issue

– Delayed elections will allow counter-revolutionary forces to regroup

Hisham Kassem said that a presidential council “is completely unrealistic. The military does not negotiate with civilians”. He added that the MB “will not get more than 20% of votes if we hold elections now”.

El-Erian said that the MB only want 30% of seats and will not field a candidate in the first presidential elections. This was challenged by Mona Makram Ebeid who said that last year the Supreme Guide said that the MB “can take the majority” and that in any case “the MB often change their mind”.

We voted and the motion was carried, 84.4% in favour.

I spent much of the time watching El-Erian, a member of the Dark Force which is the Muslim Brotherhood and who himself is jolly and almost always laughing and a bit cuddly.

I left convinced that no is the correct choice. Having said that I rarely back the winning horse.

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