An afternoon spent endorsing a presidential candidate passes with relative ease

Right away! So we were told. Everyone must complete procedures to endorse potential candidates for the third presidential elections since 2011 right away.

Just a few hours after Egypt’s National Elections Authority (NEA) announced a timeline for the upcoming elections, citizens were asked to endorse nominees at notarization offices across the country, under the purview of the Ministry of Justice.

I had preconceived ideas about what it takes to support a presidential candidate who is at odds with the state from my experiences as a political activist.

I remember, for instance, the constitutional referendum that followed the deposition of former President Mohamed Morsi, and the 2014 presidential elections. In both instances, obstacles began at notarization offices, where employees would refuse to register an endorsement for any number of reasons, citing something like “lack of geographical jurisdiction.” And the barriers to free political engagement continued with the arrests of supporters of particular nominees and campaigns urging people to boycott.

But the general atmosphere at the notarization office on this afternoon was different. I don’t know if it was due to the short timeframe mandated by the NEA, or was merely the impression I was given on this particular occasion.

On the fifth floor of the notarization office in Dokki, I stood opposite an employee tasked with recording candidate endorsements for Khaled Ali. The employee was holding a computer tablet. In the span of 15 minutes, the office manager asked him four times, “Where’s the other device?”

Employee: It’s charging.
Manager: How many endorsements do you have?
Employee: One.
Manager: Only?
Employee: Yes.

The employee asked me, “Who will you endorse mister?” and then stopped me before I said Khaled Ali’s last name, saying with a smile, “The new system now has the names of the candidates and their national identification numbers recorded.”

He seemed somewhat confused by the combination of new devices strewn around his office. Two computer tablets — one on his desk, another on the floor — a printer, partially propped up on a wooden chair, half of it suspended in mid-air.

He made several attempts to type my ID into the printer, but it didn’t respond. A few people tried to help, one of them wiggled the cable linking the printer and the tablet, another took my ID from the employee’s hands and started inputting the information himself.

The manager repeated his questions, adding to the bewilderment of the employees. Eventually he joined the problem solving team, and finally, the printer inked my endorsement, without the previous need for an employee to manually write it out. And it was done, finalized, complete with a date stamp.

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