‘It does not matter much’: Egyptians shrug at U.S. presidential vote

November 6, 2012

Egyptians walk past graffiti in Cairo. (Khaled Desouki -- AFP/Getty Images)

CAIRO – Egyptians said they have hardly paid attention to this U.S. election. Most said they have bigger domestic concerns to focus on -- such as a tanking economy, and an ongoing struggle between the country's divided political factions over the body of a new constitution, now three months after the first democratic presidential election in the country's history.

"Nobody is interested at all [in the U.S. elections]," Hoda Mohammad, a 47-year-old bank employee said. "The situation in the country is occupying people's minds, and everybody has something to be concerned about."

Others dismissed the election as irrelevant to Egypt's future.

"Both candidates are at the same level, and no one can say which one of them will win," said Abdo Deif, a cashier at a Cairo supermarket. For Egypt "it does not matter much who wins. The world now is all about interests; where do your people's interests lie? Their interest does not lie with us," he said.

Conversations with friends and family about the U.S. elections are minimal, he said. "With the state the country is in, there is no time to discuss the U.S. elections, not now when people are worried about water, bread, and gas, and when they have factional protests and demands cropping up and blocking the roads every other day," Deif said.

Yasser Ali, 38, an owner of a wood shop in Alexandria, said: "We have other things to worry about, like the constitution-drafting assembly... Most people around me are distracted by other problems, like looking for jobs and worrying about their income. There's only very little room for that [topic]."

Certain people "like politicians and intellectuals" and "those who work with foreigners" would be interested in the U.S. elections, but "not most Egyptians," he said.
 
Shaimaa Ahmad, a 20-year old media studies student, said she hoped Obama would win. "He is practical and believes in democratic dialogue, and we can learn from that in Egypt; get the practice from the West and apply it here where there is no democratic dialogue,"  she said.

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Max Fisher · November 6, 2012