EL-ADWA Egypt (Reuters) - In the Egyptian village where Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was born, dozens of police and soldiers guard voting booths during a presidential election expected to bring the man who toppled him to power.
The security measures belie a rare sense of unity along the rice paddies, corn fields and dirt roads.
Egypt has become deeply polarized since former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Mursi last July and cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood.
The government says the Brotherhood is a terrorist group that threatens national security, a position that many Egyptians vocally support despite Brotherhood denials.
Yet in Mursi’s home village, there seemed to be a desire for harmony, a rare commodity these days in a country plagued by protests, political violence and an Islamist insurgency.
Al-Adwa has a sizable number of pro-Sisi residents, like businessman Ahmed Azab, who praised Sisi for removing the Brotherhood from power and saving Egypt from their pan-Islamic ideology.
He said Sisi supporters were sensitive to the fact that 18 pro-Brotherhood members of the village had been sentenced to jail terms.
Although he voted for Sisi, other supporters of the presidential frontrunner did not take part in the election. Of more than 7,000 registered voters in the village, only around 350 had cast their ballots as of mid-day Tuesday.
“People refuse to put their finger in the ink bottle, so the village residents don’t notice they cast their ballots,” said Abdulrahman Essam, head of a polling station.
Sisi removed Mursi from office after mass protests against his rule. Egyptians accused him of usurping power, imposing the Brotherhood’s vision and mismanaging the economy.
The Brotherhood says Sisi staged a military coup and undermined democratic gains made since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Mursi and other top Brotherhood leaders are on trial and could face the death penalty.
The Islamist movement’s bitterness is palpable in the sleepy Nile Delta village.
Posters urge people to boycott the “election of blood” which is “null and void”. Young children in sandals chant “down with military rule”.
The only poster of Sisi was one that insulted him, with red paint splashed on the image of his face to symbolize bloodshed and suffering under his watch since Mursi’s fall.
But the images don’t seem to unnerve Sisi fans like livestock dealer Ahmed Ibrahim Selim.
“People are not voting because of Dr. Mohamed Mursi, we are a kin, and we are a village, and this is their way of thinking,” said Selim, who said he sneaked around to a voting booth so that Brotherhood neighbors would not notice.
Security forces have killed hundreds of Mursi supporters and jailed thousands of others.
Rickshaw driver Mohamed Ibrahim said Mursi had suffered from massive injustice and his removal had destroyed Egypt. Nevertheless, he too underlined the need for harmony in Al-Adwa.
“We are considered as one family, one home,” he said.
Editing by Michael Georgy and Giles Elgood