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Manar Ammar – WNN Breaking

Women at a protest at Cairo University

Women protest at Cairo University during Egypt's Arab Spring 2011. Image: Sarah Carr

(WNN) CAIRO, Egypt: On Egypt’s first day of elections, women’s participation was visibly large in the country’s first post-revolution elections to choose “the revolution parliament.”  The high female turn-out comes despite the low numbers of women who are running for the Parliament.

Women candidates themselves running for individual seats account for 30.6 percent of all candidates, and on party and coalition lists, they form a mere 6.15 percent.

Strangely, the highest number of female candidates running on lists in the election comes from the Red Sea and Luxor governorates with 25 percent, followed by Port Said with 23 percent, while Cairo came with a small 13 percent on lists and only 8 percent individual candidates.

This is also the first time women will be running or casting their votes after the female quota was removed following the January uprising that toppled the former regime of Hosni Mubarak. A total of 376 women are running for parliamentary this voting campaign, amid thousands of men.

One of those candidates, longtime human rights advocate Dalia Ziada of the Justice Party, said she believes people will be surprised at the outcome and did not seem concerned over the rise of Islamic groups in the lead-up to the ballot.

“I think we will all be surprised if a lot of people vote,” she began, “and I believe Egyptians, women and others, will not allow any government to take away our freedoms. That is what we all fought for in the January revolution.”

The election operation room at the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) commended the female participation in the voting process. The center accused the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) of spreading rumors outside polling stations that other candidates had dropped out of the race and reported female followers of conservative parties and groups calling on women voters to “follow God’s law and vote for the Islamist candidates.”

The center is running the operation room in order to monitor the elections from a gender perspective and is constantly updating throughout the voting.

The independent Coalition to Monitor Elections also praised the high female turn-out on Monday and said in a statement that women arrived at polling stations an hour before the scheduled time, with some standing in line for hours in order to make their voice heard.

Many had to stand in long queues that curled around streets for hours to cast their votes.

With many stations suffering from delays due the late arrival of the judge assigned to the site or the voting sheets, women remained put, fighting bad weather in some cities such as Alexandria, where it rained for hours.

Yet, the first day was not conflict free, as one female voter got struck with an iron bar by a follower of a candidate that pressured the woman to change her vote in the Zeitoun district in Cairo.

In most polling stations, women performed identity checks on other women who wear the Niqab, a religious dress that covers women’s faces. Tens of women, however in the city of Kafr al-Shieck, in the delta region North of Cairo, refused to expose their faces, so they were banned from casting their votes.

Optimism surrounded the vote, as many posted on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter that they were generally pleased with how the first day of voting in the country’s first free and fair election went.

“I feel good and positive at the voting and believe that women had a voice and will be a strong influence in Egypt,” wrote one activist on Twitter.

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©2011 Women News Network – WNN
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