The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

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Posted by vmsalama on September 7, 2005

By Vivian Salama
Daily Star Staff
CAIRO:  Imagine a tent the size of a football stadium housing hundreds of campaign workers.  Everywhere you look, people dressed in business casual attire manning phones; evaluating incoming poll results; and entering data into computers.  Along side them, politicians monitored television sets, did live telephone interviews, and reviewed data.  This wasn’t Florida.  It wasn’t London or Paris.  This was Heliopolis – home to the National Democratic Party’s (NDP) “Get Out the Vote” campaign tent. 
Some 500 campaign volunteers, organized in groups to monitor Egyptian election results by governorate, worked some 17 hours to determine Hosni Mubarak’s progress in the polls during this, the first ever multi-candidate election in Egypt’s history.  The ambiance was calm yesterday afternoon as volunteers chatted with their fellow supporters and sipped on cold beverages.  As the clock struck the top of the hour, the scene quickly transformed into a more casino-like air.  Bells rang as membership secretariat Ahmed Ez took to the microphone to address volunteers.
“Call your governorate’s polling station representatives,” announced Ez.  “Ask them how they’re doing, how many votes they have received at their station.”
Suddenly the race was on.  Party representatives grabbed their pencils and dashed to the phones.  Noses sunk into notebooks as workers quickly scribbled down numbers.  They passed the notebooks on to men at a computer – one at every table – who would register the information into a campaign database. 
“We’ve developed a special software program,” a senior NDP official, who asked not to be identified, explained to the Daily Star.  “We have people in each polling station to facilitate the movement at the polling station.  On an hourly basis, the group will be reporting in.  A table representing each governorate will be working to track the people, through phone calls and input into computers.  Our computer software has a program built in to monitor voting patterns.”
Experts say the president’s success is a virtual guarantee.  NDP officials seem confident, saying they don’t expect the final results for at least three days from Election Day.  President Mubarak voted early Wednesday along with his wife Suzanne and son, Gamal.    
“There have been a good number of people voting,” explained Ahmed Hamouda, a party representative monitoring the Assuit governorate, who says he couldn’t vote himself since he reported for duty at 7am and expected to stay past midnight.  “We have seen no problems out of the ordinary.  Once in a while we have people who aren’t finding their names on the lists, but that’s about it.”
Mubarak Campaign 
 “We’ve had little problems here and there,” explained a representative at the Port Said table who asked to remain anonymous.  “There were problems with the telephone signals, getting through to our representatives at each station.  Also we had some people who were not finding their names.  These are normal problems.”
The Daily Star spoke to one man who says his name was written improperly on the list at the Mohammed Farid School for boys in Shoubra.  “There was a letter missing from my name on the list, so they told me I cannot vote.  I am not really upset by it because I don’t know if my vote would have made a big difference anyway,” explained Ezzet Saleb, an Ayman Nour supporter. 
“The government and the people of Egypt are intent on having a free and fair election before the world and show the world that this country of 7000 years of civilization is capable of coming up with its own process, it’s own democratic process and going ahead with the political reform plan it has promised to have in place,” explained Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif in a press conference Tuesday.  The Prime Minister himself voted early Wednesday then carried on with his day, business as usual.  He did not engage in campaign activities, according to his spokesman.
Yesterday, Gamal Mubarak was front and center in the campaign tent along with party leaders, Kamal El-Shazli, Minister of State for the People’s Assembly Affairs, and Minister of Investment, Mahmoud Mohieldin – all of whom have played an instrumental role in the 19-day campaign. 
A majority of the volunteers making up the “Get Out the Vote” team consist of university students who have, over the past few weeks, been recruited by NDP officials to take part in this momentous event.  NDP officials say the team would not monitor the results of the opposition.  Despite the tent’s impressive appearance, complete with air conditioners, television sets, speaker system, computers and more, party officials say the facility still falls within the LE 10 million budget cap that all campaigns must abide by. 
“The campaign budget will be reviewed by the General Accounting office and released at some point next week,” the official explained.  “This is a new experience for all of us.  The president has set up an ambitious program and has set up very clear priorities if he is elected.”

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