The media outlets union announced on Wednesday a $100,000 reward for whoever puts the union through to a ‘No’ voter on Egypt’s constitutional referendum.
The reward comes after journalists from different news services failed to find a single citizen who voted ‘No’ on the draft constitution.
Heba Amin, an Egyptian freelance journalist, said she spent the 12 hours of the referendum jumping from one polling station to the next, in search of a ‘No’ voter … to no avail.
“I ruled out all non-veiled middle-aged women, since those are usually anti-Muslim Brotherhood,” Amin said. “I’d look for veiled women, well-educated girls, bearded men and underprivileged citizens; still all would tell me they voted ‘yes’.”
Fathy Saeed, political editor of a daily Egyptian paper, said he wasn’t happy with the outcome of his team of reporters’ coverage of the referendum.
“At first, I thought they were just being too lazy and not looking hard enough for the other side of the story,” he said. “But eventually it hit me; there is no other side of the story. It’s as if the ballot did not include the choice ‘No’.”
The head of the Supreme Electoral Commission nevertheless confirmed the existence of a ‘No’ option on all ballots. He denied allegations that the pens provided for voting at the polling stations were only designed to tick on the ‘Yes’ option.
Saeed was worried the authorities might be forced to exercise vote-rigging yet again to make the percentage of votes in favour of the draft constitution more “realistic”. “If they are completely honest about the results, we’re expecting nothing less than 98% in favour of the constitution,” he said, adding that this would bring Egypt back to ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s astronomical figures for elections and referendums results.
The editor didn’t sound too optimistic about the reward. “I’m just concerned we will get approached by voters who didn’t actually say no but are lying to exploit the reward,” he said. The condition for winning the reward is to provide a picture of the voter’s ballot with the choice ‘No’ ticked.
Egyptian authorities have been too wary about the results of the referendum, seeing it will be the current regime’s first democratic test.