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Egypt: The Question of Election Symbols

A car, a gun, a toothbrush, a spaceship and an eye! Those are just some of the symbols you can see on the election banners on Egyptian streets as the countdown for election day in Egypt nears. Election symbols are used in many countries, whether it is Liberia, Sudan or India, and George Iype wrote in Rediff why those symbols are used in India:

One of the biggest problems for many voters in India, where a large part of the population is still illiterate, is how to identify their chosen candidates on the ballots. The Election Commission, thus, has the laborious task of allocating separate election symbols for each party and the innumerable independent candidates.

In Egypt, the use of election symbols dates back to the year 1956. At the time, 30 symbols were enough [ar] to cover the number of candidates in each Electoral District. But today, according to “Al-Manzala Now”, about 250 symbols are needed to cover the number of candidates:

اللجنة العليا للانتخابات قامت بإضافة 100 رمز جديد الى الرموز السابق تحديدها ليصل بذلك تعداد الرموز التى تم توزيعها على القوائم الحزبية والائتلافات الانتخابية والمرشحين الفرديين الى 250 رمزا.
The higher committee for elections added 100 new symbols to the ones already designated to reach a sum of 250 symbols distributed among party lists and individual candidates.

No matter what, our minds will tend to make a certain link between each candidate and his symbol, or as Moritz puts it here:

The problem of course is, that specific symbols actually carry certain values and connotations with them and therefore having a specific symbol might be an advantage, such as having the moon [crescent] as symbol in predominantly Muslim countries.

Eman AbdElRahman used irony to comment on the symbols in her district [ar]:

بخلاف البيانو والخاتم وبوكيه الورد.. في دايرتنا مرشح رمز العود!.. طب اختار مين ولا مين كدة؟ الرموز احلى من بعض..

@Lastoadri: Other than the Piano, Wedding Ring, and Flower bouquet … there is candidate having the Oud [Arabic musical instrument] as his symbol! Now I am confused whom to chose, all are prettier than each other.
The candidate of the Conservatives Party is using an Army Tank as his symbol. By @ashrafkhalil

The candidate of the Conservatives Party is using an Army Tank as his symbol. By @ashrafkhalil

With the tense relation the Egyptians are having with the military, and with the incidents of protesters being ran-over by armoured vehicles, Ahmad Gharbeia found some symbols to be really odd and shouldn't have been accepted by the candidates. He tweets [ar]:

الحزب ال يختار رموز فاشلة زي مسدس و سيف و دبابة أكيد من خارج الثورة و التاريخ و مش لازم حد ينتخبهم

@aGharbeia: The parties that use symbols like a gun, sword or an army tank are for sure not with the revolution and are outside history and nobody should vote for them.

The word rocket on the other hand is used in the Egyptian dialect to refer to a hottie, and when used by an actress, people couldn't stop themselves from making fun of it.

On the other hand, some candidates adapted their banners and slogans to suit their symbols:

Bassem Sabry published one of the election banners, where the candidate's symbol is a teddy bear so he decided to adapt his slogan to it: "If you don't like my style already ... give me back my teddy" (via @al_sa3idi)

Bassem Sabry published one of the election banners, where the candidate's symbol is a teddy bear so he decided to adapt his slogan to it: "If you don't like my style already … give me back my teddy" (via @al_sa3idi)

Seeing the photograph above reminds me that no matter how strange it is, it's better than what used to happen in India a while ago, and how the Election Commission there changed the elections mandate in the 1990′s accordingly.

The body took a call on animals and birds in 1990 after petitioners complained that parties were using dead parrots and doves on a string during their campaigns.

Another candidate, knowing the power symbols, decided to put the Facebook logo side by side with his official elections symbol. Tarek Shalaby made fun of him [ar]:

المرشح دا ببمثل شباب الثورة أكيد: رمز الفيس من غير عنوان ولا أى حاجة. لما يشوفوا اللوجو هيصوتوله وش. twitpic.com/7ev5ik
@tarekshalaby: This candidate for sure represents the youth of the revolution: Facebook logo, without a page URL or anything, when they see the logo they'll vote for him for sure! twitpic.com/7ev5ik

With all those strange and funny symbols, Twitter users started to wonder how the symbols are chosen. Blue Tercowas wonders [ar]:

هو في جدول مثلاً لأختيار الرموز ولا كل واحد علي مزاجه؟

@BlueTercowas: Is there a table for example where each candidate chooses his or her symbol from, or is each one free to have the symbol he or she wants

Haidy Aly decided to direct this question to one of the candidates, who proposed to a well-known actress a few months ago in his newspaper column [ar]:

مطلب جماهيرى .. ليه رمز الخاتم !?
@Haidyy: @HamzawyAmr People are wondering … why the ring as your symbol!?
@HamzawyAmr: @Haidyy الرموز لا نختارها وانما تقررها اللجنة العليا للانتخابات
@HamzawyAmr: @Haidyy We do not choose the symbols but they are assigned by the higher committee of elections.

And according to Al-Manzala Now, symbols are assigned to candidates on a first come first serve basis and a candidate can request his symbol to be changed within 3 days after its assignment, given that it's not used by anybody else.

Finally, Farid Salim commented on the use of election symbols:

الرموز الانتخابية تدل علي جهل الأغلبية , فهم بالكاد يتذكرون الرسومات مثل الأطفال , ياللعار
@farid56: The election symbols mean that the majority of people are ignorant and that they can hardly remember drawings like children. What a shame!

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