Burned out and apathetic, Egypt prepares to vote -- again

Story highlights

  • Egypt is on the verge of its eighth election in less than five years
  • Some candidates say they haven't even read their party's policies
  • Former President Mohamed Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood is banned

Giza, Egypt (CNN)Loud music and the sound of vuvuzelas pour out of a double-decker bus moving through the streets of the historic Egyptian city of Giza.

On top, young men and women enthusiastically wave the Egyptian flag to drivers and pedestrians. The sides of the bus are covered with pictures of Ahmed Mortada Mansour, who is running for Parliament.
    But will even this be enough to get Egyptians come out to vote starting this weekend?
    Probably not, people on the street say.
    "Honestly, I only knew that there were elections a week ago. I don't know the candidates," Mostafa Ibrahim, a medical student, told CNN.
    This will be the country's third election since the military removed Islamist President Mohamed Morsy following mass protests in 2013, and the eighth since the January 25 revolution in 2011.
    Voter turnout peaked in the parliamentary elections in 2011, reaching 62%, but it has been dropping since.

    Battling disappointment

    "Almost five years now since the uprising of January (2011), the disappointment has sunk in finally," publisher and political commentator Hisham Kassem said. "The expectations were very high and not much came out. In fact, living conditions basically deteriorated for most of the Egyptians on all levels."
    "Interest (in) being involved in the political process came to an end. I don't think there is going to be that much participation as we've seen in previous elections."
    It's not only voters who are losing interest, even potential candidates are ignoring the elections.
    More than 5,000 candidates are running in the elections this year, but that's half the number of the 2011 race.
    For voters, the process has become repetitious and confusing. In 2012, the constitutional court dissolved Parliament six months after it convened, and in March 2015, it canceled the elections.
    This time around, the electoral committee didn't announce election dates until August, two days before opening registration.
    In the week leading up to the elections, election news was overshadowed by controversies such as an actress who confessed to watching porn and a TV anchor who presented videogame footage as satellite footage of Russian airstrikes in Syria.

    Getting the people's attention

    "We have to persuade people we have something new. And to persuade people, we have to have an attraction first," said Hazem Helal, a campaign manager for the Free Egyptians Party candidates, including Mansour.
    Helal said he considers the nature of each neighborhood, when coming up with ideas. At certain campaign stops, gifts are distributed to get people's attention, he said.
    Mansour is the son of a notorious, foul-mouthed lawyer whose support of the Mubarak regime and presidency of the popular Zamalek Sports Club has earned him his share of fans and enemies.
    "My father made me the most famous candidate. My father's fame helped me a lot. It helps in getting people's attention, so you can deliver your message to them. It's the best marketing," Mansour said shortly before boarding the campaign bus with his three kids.
    But Mansour also admits he's not completely familiar with his party's platform.
    "I've recently joined, so I didn't read its entire program." But he said he agrees with the party's liberal policies and vision for a free market economy.
    Mansour, like numerous other candidates, makes a point of using his father's name along with his last name. Most political parties, like the Free Egyptians, have enlisted candidates whose families are popular in their respective constituencies, rather than field their own members.
    The party is funded by businessman Naguib Sawiris, who recently offered to buy an island to house Syrian refugees.
    Struggling with funding and internal rifts, opposition and pro-democracy forces are either boycotting the elections or fielding a small number of candidates.
    Many of the former MPs that served in the party of ousted president Hosni Mubarak are making a comeback either as independents or through various parties.
    The Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated polls after 2011, is now listed as a terrorist organization and is banned from running. Its leaders are in prison or exile. Morsy, who once led the Brotherhood's political party, has been sentenced to death.
    The only Islamist force contesting the elections is the ultraconservative Nour Party. Its decision to support the military in 2013 cost it many supporters.
    "Our goal was to preserve the security, the stability and the power of Egypt," Nour President Younes Makhyon told voters in the Bortos village, north of Giza, urging them to vote. "If you stay at home, you only have yourselves to blame."