As Egyptian authorities continue to urge people to come out in their numbers to vote in the ongoing presidential election, people living in restive northern Sinai Peninsula do not seem to care as they queue for what they find more pressing – bread.
Many people are afraid to leave their homes due to the ongoing military operations to crush Islamic State militants. In the midst of the military campaign, forces have carried out air raids, patrols and imposed curfews. These tactics being used have blocked most access to the peninsula and led to the shortage of food supplies.
On Monday, polls opened for the presidential elections but many civilians in North Sinai rather lined up for bread handouts.
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“I went to vote because I was waiting in line to pick up bread” being handed out by the army, school teacher from the town of Sheikh Zuweid, Selim Ahmed told Reuters.
“The polling station happened to be nearby so I voted. People here are waiting for food baskets, of which there are few. They’re not queueing up to vote,” he said.
Ahmed Raouf, an official overseeing voting in another area in Sheikh Zuweid, near the border with the Gaza Strip, indicated that only one person had come to vote.
“That’s out of an electorate of 6,000 people in this area. People are scared to come out because of the ongoing military operations and threats of targeting polling stations,” Raouf said.
The Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt’s most active militants are based, borders Israel and the Gaza Strip. Islamist militants have over the years carried out many deadly attacks, mostly targeting the army.
The activities of the group intensified after Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumed power following the military’s overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Mursi in 2013.
In the weeks before the election, Islamist militants threatened Egyptians in the area not to go anywhere near the ballot box.