CAIRO: State security forces stood on alert at Cairo University Tuesday following Monday clashes with students protesting the debarment of student union candidates.
The first signs of the government’s intentions came Tuesday Oct. 16, the first day of classes after Eid Al Fitr vacation. The Student Affairs Office, which handles applications for student union elections, quietly announced that it would accept candidates’ applications on that day and that day only.
Students affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood argue that this announcement came in the form of a sign hung in an obscure location so students would miss the deadline.
A number of faculties accepted application from students known for their lack of affiliation with security forces. Although unconfirmed by authorities, it’s widely believed that security forces have to approve the candidates. Students with political affiliations have been removed from candidate lists in previous years.
However, on Sunday Oct. 21, the eve of the elections, the university released the final candidates’ list. All the independent candidates, unaffiliated with the security, have been erased. Adding insult to injury, the list was posted upside-down.
“There are no elections. They removed all the students’ names but theirs. They’re unchallenged in this, one Muslim Brotherhood student told Daily News Egypt. “They didn’t even nominate enough of their students for the elections so that they can legally appoint the students they want in the union.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s student website reported that 220 students applied. All 140 students affiliated with the group were crossed out of the final list.
On Monday hundreds of students from the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Ghad Party, and the Democratic Front party united to protest the government’s interference in elections.
The event was marked by minor clashes at the university gates between students and security forces, which included both uniformed officers and plainclothes security carrying knives. The students say the anti-riot police forced them to go inside the university gates.
The protest reached “the dome, the location of the university president’s office and a symbol of Cairo University, where they held a rally. Students held banners saying “No to Crossing Out, “No to Rigging, and “No to Security Interference.
Professors supporting the students also participated in the protest.
The Student Union, formed of students affiliated with the National Democratic Party, held a counter-protest. Dr Ali Abdel Rahman, university president joined the current Student Union in its protest.
Crossed-out candidate Fadel Youssef told the Brotherhood student website that this year the government interference was stronger. In previous years brotherhood students had been barred, but this year the student affairs office removed all names unaffiliated with the security, he said. “Security also calls students directly to the security office inside the university to form networks with them.
The Student Committee for Observing the Elections, a student group composed of all the major student groups, reported low voter turnout.
Omar Attar told Daily News Egypt, that although there was nothing to monitor, since all the participants are from the same group affiliated with the security.
Security officials made it very difficult for him to enter the polling station, he added.
“The station was empty. And of course I didn’t vote. I left my paper blank. Attar says.