These Cartoons Capture Egyptians’ Fear And Fatigue Over Upcoming Constitutional Vote

As Egyptians prepare to vote on whether to accept a new constitution, cartoons capture the mass hysteria and mild criticism that is permissible to share.

Egypt will vote next week in a constitutional referendum, the country’s second attempt to adopt a constitution since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 (the first attempt, under now ousted president Mohamed Morsi, didn’t end well). The drafting process has been messy — and further complicated by the military-backed government’s crackdown on those who oppose it.

The constitution is by all indicators expected to pass. According to a recent poll, 74% of Egyptians surveyed will vote yes in the referendum (though 59% of respondents also said they had not yet read the document.) These numbers are likely reflective of a concerted campaign by the government, military, and other political and business elites to push the public towards voting yes. Supporters of the deposed Islamist president have responded in a similar vein with a vote no campaign, though they have fewer resources.

Cartooning and satire in Egypt has a storied tradition, often serving as a mask for political criticism. Here’s a look at cartoons from Egypt’s newspapers that capture some of the hysteria, fatigue, and fear (that is permissible to print) surrounding Egypt’s constitutional referendum.

1. After three years of upheaval, many Egyptians justify the government’s crackdown on dissentby saying it’s necessary for greater stability. In this cartoon, a man thinking “stability” — and holding a yes vote — maims a second man.

2. Commenting on government’s intense media campaign around the constitution, the cartoonist writes: “I have a really new idea…I’ll read the constitution first!”

3. Referring to the mass arrests of political activists, journalists, and Muslim Brotherhood supporters, the artist mocks whether there really is a choice: “Do you agree with the Egyptian Arab Republic’s Constitution project?… It’s your choice!”

4. This comic also mocks the government line that Egyptians are facing a free and fair vote. The man with the gun says, “You know it’s your right to say no?” forcing a “yes!” from the second man voting.

5. This comic, titled “A mathematical equation,” is a commentary on how divided Egypt has become. “If you’re not with me, you’re an infidel,” says the first man, an Islamist. “If you’re not with me, you’re a traitor,” says the second, a politician.

6. Here “Yes to flannel,” mocks the government’s widespread “yes to the constitution” campaign. The artist employs a linguistic play on the similarity between the words “flannel” and “constitution” in Arabic.

7. “Yes to the constitution. Does anyone have any objection?”

8. Egyptian leaders have a record of superseding constitutional rule. “I swear to god that I will respect the constitution in my other hand,” says the man with the constitution in his left hand, and a club that says “legislative exceptions” in his right.

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