Negative campaigning rumor mill rampant on voting days

“I can’t vote for the Brotherhood. They will slit my child’s throat in front of me,” said Kamel, a 53-year-old taxi driver. Kamel has seen videos of so-called extremist Islamists beheading infidels in the middle of the street (probably from Iraq) and believes that the Muslim Brotherhood represent the same kind of violent ideology.

Kamel, like many others, decided to vote for former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq after being affected by rumors he heard outside of a polling station. In the runoff, voters had only two candidates to choose from, and campaigners had only one opponent to focus the bulk of their negative campaigning toward. True or false, little factoids and anecdotes produced as part of the negative campaigning rumor mill is affecting the decisions of many voters.

“Brotherhood Parliament members visited Iran just last month. You know they want to turn us into another Iran where a bunch of backwards clerics try to rule us,” said Adham Hussein, a 34-year-old electronics salesman. Hussein was at a Shafiq conference on the eve of the first day of voting. He explained that he respected many Brotherhood figures, until he found out what they were really after.

Mahmoud Abdelhady claims to also know what they’re really after and berated this journalist for not knowing. “Did you not see the map that was leaked by the French Jew about their plan to split Egypt? And you call yourself a journalist?” he said. Abdel Hady, a 27-year-old waiter, was referring to the map shown by inflammatory TV host and old regime sycophant Tawfiq Okasha that shows this alleged Brotherhood “master plan.”

Okasha has a nightly television show on his mother’s channel, Faraeen, during which he babbles on for three hours straight, usually about how the revolution is a Masonic/Zionist/American construct and how all of its main protagonists are actually foreign spies.

In one such moment of unabashed libel, Okasha accuses Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy of actually being a spy for Qatar. “Morsy was arrested on 27 January 2011 for spying for Qatar, and Hamas are the ones who broke him out,” said Ali al-Gammal, a Shafiq campaigner at a polling station in the Sharqiya governorate.

Okasha once showed a picture of a character from the beloved children’s cartoon “Ice Age 3,” claiming that it is the true form of the anti-Christ. He somehow reportedly still has a sizeable viewership. “I know Okasha is sometimes aggressive, but the stuff he says always makes sense,” Abdel Hady said.

Many also believe Shafiq’s claims that Brotherhood leaders were behind the attacks on protesters during the Battle of the Camel on 2 February 2011. Ironically, this drove a few to vote for Shafiq on “revolutionary” grounds. “Why would I vote for the group that killed the beautiful youth of the 25 January?” said Abeer, a 50-year-old housewife, outside Demerdash High School polling station in the Abbasseya district explaining why she is voting for Shafiq.

Outside the Abu al-Saoud polling station in the Manial district supporters of both candidates were one-upping each other on just how apocalyptic their opponent’s reign would be. “If Shafiq wins, anyone who voted for Morsy will be on a national security black list, and might get put in prison from time to time,” said Asmaa, a grocer whose store is in front of the polling station.

Asmaa had an attentive group of women standing around her. She laughed after making her statement. However, word does get around, and at least three people made the same statement, without laughing, within two hours and right in front of the polling station.

Other rumors surrounding Shafiq are grounded in more tangible circumstances. “I have policeman friends — corrupt ones — who are really hoping Shafiq wins. This can only mean police will be as corrupt and oppressive as before,” said Emad Salama, a sausage sandwich salesman. Salama said that during the reign of former President Hosni Mubarak, whenever he took his cart out to the street to sell sandwiches, he’d keep LE200 in his pocket as bribe money for police to allow him sell without confiscating his source of living.

“We’ll all be going to prison [if Shafiq wins]. At least this time around our neighbors in prison will be the Mubaraks! Who can ask for more?” said Sayyed Khaled, a Morsy supporter.

The rumors extend to media and reporters as well. “I’ll tell you what I know about Shafiq. I know he paid all of you to only report on things that make him look good, so I will not give you an interview,” said Ghada, a Morsy representative at a polling station in the Dhaher district in northeastern Cairo.

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