CAIRO: Participants in a protest campaign in Alexandria intentionally cast invalid ballots in this week’s three-day presidential election by writing slogans and posting pictures supporting jailed activist Mahienour el-Masry on their voting slips, and calling for her release.
On May 20, a court in Alexandria upheld a two-year jail sentence against 28-year-old Masry and fined her 50,000 EGP ($7,000) for protesting in December in solidarity with Khaled Said, whose brutal death in 2010 in state custody helped spark the 2011 January 25 Revolution. Masry was convicted of violating the infamous 2013 Protest Law.
Mina Zaki, a 22-year-old resident of Alexandria voided his vote by attaching Masry’s picture to his ballot and writing “Free Mahienour” on it Monday. He provided The Cairo Post with a picture of his ballot Friday.
“I do not know Mahienour personally, and she probably does not know me either, but I always saw her in every protest or march that I participated in,” Zaki told The Cairo Post. “She was always there calling for the release of detainees unknown to the public, almost all detainees. I felt compelled to attach her photo to the ballot because I wanted everyone to know her story.”
No stranger to prison, Masry, a lawyer and member of the Revolutionary Socialists, was previously detained under the regimes of former President Hosni Mubarak, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and former President Mohamed Morsi.
Six others were sentenced in the same case as Masry, including activists Loai Kahwagy and Omar Hazek. Eight more activists were detained on May 22 in a protest calling for Masry’s release in Alexandria.
El-Watan News reported that the majority of void ballots in Alexandria were deliberately invalidated by writing messages in solidarity with Masry. According to early vote counts, 4.6 percent of the nearly 81,000 votes cast in Alexandria were invalidated.
Mahienour el-Masry on the protest law and her trial
“The [protest] law in itself is not made to be enforced. It is made to repress anyone calling for his right. Also, it is not made to counter terrorism because we have enough laws, even in the regular penal code. The law is made as part of the counter revolution and part of destroying the January 25 Revolution completely,” Masry told the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information in a video posted May 22.
Since the protest law was adopted in November 2013, thousands have been detained on charges stemming from it.
Several friends advised Masry not to attend the trial session on May 20, but she said she “personally could not do that,” according to a post dated May 20 on her Facebook page.
“I wish I could escape and hide, but honestly I cannot… I feel that I have to face up to [it]… it is primarily important for my psychological well-being that [has] been fading away for a while,” Masry said in her post. “We do not like prisons, but we do not fear them.”
Other ballots, available on the Free Mahienour Facebook page included slogans like “Down with the protest law”, “Freedom for detainees” and “Freedom of the Brave”, which is the name of a movement that publishes information on detainees and calls for their release.
Al-Masry Al-Youm published a number of invalid ballots, where voters wrote protest slogans like “As long as Egyptian blood is cheap, down with any president”, “Morsi is my president”, “Blood is inviolable”, “The revolution continues” and other jokes, insults and messages to the future president.
Early polling results show that heavily favored presidential candidate Abdel Fatah al-Sisi gained some 23,264,306 votes, constituting 92.9 percent of ballots, and that Hamdeen Sabbahi received 734,300 votes, earning just 2.9 percent.
In total, there were actually more void votes, 1,022,772, than there were for Sabbahi.
The High Presidential Elections Commission (HPEC) is scheduled to announce final results on June 5.