In Morsi’s Village, Unusual Calm in Polarised Egypt

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In the Egyptian village where Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was born, dozens of police and soldiers guard voting booths during a presidential election expected to bring the man who toppled him to power.

The security measures belie a rare sense of unity along the rice paddies, corn fields and dirt roads.

Egypt has become deeply polarised since former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Morsi last July and cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood.

The government says the Brotherhood is a terrorist group that threatens national security, a position that many Egyptians vocally support despite Brotherhood denials.

Yet in Morsi’s home village, there seemed to be a desire for harmony, a rare commodity these days in a country plagued by protests, political violence and an Islamist insurgency.

Al-Adwa has a sizable number of pro-Sisi residents, like businessman Ahmed Azab, who praised Sisi for removing the Brotherhood from power and saving Egypt from their pan-Islamic ideology.

He said Sisi supporters were sensitive to the fact that 18 pro-Brotherhood members of the village had been sentenced to jail terms.

Although he voted for Sisi, other supporters of the presidential frontrunner did not take part in the election. Of more than 7,000 registered voters in the village, only around 350 had cast their ballots as of mid-day Tuesday.

“People refuse to put their finger in the ink bottle, so the village residents don’t notice they cast their ballots,” said Abdulrahman Essam, head of a polling station.

Sisi removed Morsi from office after mass protests against his rule. Egyptians accused him of usurping power, imposing the Brotherhood’s vision and mismanaging the economy.

The Brotherhood says Sisi staged a military coup and undermined democratic gains made since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Morsi and other top Brotherhood leaders are on trial and could face the death penalty.

The Islamist movement’s bitterness is palpable in the sleepy Nile Delta village.

Posters urge people to boycott the “election of blood” which is “null and void”. Young children in sandals chant “down with military rule”.

The only poster of Sisi was one that insulted him, with red paint splashed on the image of his face to symbolise bloodshed and suffering under his watch since Morsi’s fall.

But the images don’t seem to unnerve Sisi fans like livestock dealer Ahmed Ibrahim Selim.

“People are not voting because of Dr. Mohamed Morsi, we are a kin, and we are a village, and this is their way of thinking,” said Selim, who said he sneaked around to a voting booth so that Brotherhood neighbours would not notice.

Security forces have killed hundreds of Morsi supporters and jailed thousands of others.