x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

From a toothbrush to a rocket ship, symbols guide Egyptian voters

A steam engine. A bouquet of flowers. A rocket ship. They may not hold much relevance in the day-to-day life of the average Egyptian, but these objects, along with hundreds of others, will serve as a symbolic reminder for many of the elections that began yesterday.

Some of the many symbols used for illiterate voters, who will make up over a third of voters Egypt's parliamentary elections.
Some of the many symbols used for illiterate voters, who will make up over a third of voters Egypt's parliamentary elections.

CAIRO // A steam engine. A bouquet of flowers. A rocket ship. They may not hold much relevance in the day-to-day life of the average Egyptian, but these objects, along with hundreds of others, will serve as a symbolic reminder for many of the elections that began yesterday.

The symbols, most of which appear to have no connection to the country on a political or cultural level, will help those who cannot read or write to differentiate between political groups and independent parties.

With illiteracy at a current rate of approximately 35 per cent, symbols have played an important role in Egypt's tumultuous electoral process over the decades, said a Cairo resident who would only give her name as Shahira.

"It helps a lot. Sometimes it is actually easier to look at the symbols than the names of the candidates themselves.

"For people that don't read and write, this is important, and it is the only thing they use," said the mother of three.

The country's first attempt at a democratic election to come after the downfall of former president, Hosni Mubarak, in February, the power of the symbols has become all the more apparent.

And with over 200 making their appearance on various pamphlets, posters, and banners across the country, political candidates have gone to lengths to make theirs as memorable as possible.

From a blender to a toothbrush, and a hoover to a baby grand, the number of symbols has increased exponentially with each passing election since their introduction to the voting process in the 1950s.

zalhassani@thenational.ae