Dove or tank? Tennis racket or mobile phone? In Egypt, where close to half of the population is believed to be illiterate, a good choice of campaign symbol can be decisive on polling day.
The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of President Hosni Mubarak makes no mistake and systematically reserves itself the Islamic crescent and the camel, which have proved their vote-grabbing potential over the years.
But the pecking order ends with the all-powerful NDP, leaving other candidates scrambling for the best remaining symbols.
In Cairo's impoverished Bulaq Dakrur constituency, the camel and the crescent will face a stiff challenge from the umbrella and the open book, logos for the Muslim Brothers and the hardline Gamaa Islamiya respectively.
"It's easier to remember the symbols than the names of the candidates," said Rasha Mohammed Ali.
No fewer than 529 candidates will battle it out today in the 25 constituencies of the Egyptian capital, one of eight governorates to be decided in the first wave of polling.
A total of 5,310 candidates nationwide are competing for parliament's 444 available seats during elections staggered over a whole month.
As he stares at the patchwork of posters plastered on the walls on Cairo's Dokki neighborhood, Mohammed Badri Abdallah offers his own explanation for the use of campaign symbols.
"These little logos were introduced for women, who often can't read," he said. According to most estimates, illiteracy rates hover above 40 percent for Egyptian men and reach the 50 percent mark for women.
The forest of campaign banners and posters mingling with decorations for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and clusters of electricity cables and phone lines above Cairo's sandy alleyways can be overwhelming even to the literate.
Thus a distinctive symbol, whether representative or not of the party's platform or the candidate's profile, can be a serious asset.
On election day, some voters will tick off the symbol they can identify or simply their favorite logo rather than a name they can't read.
The determining factor in selecting a symbol often remains mysterious.
A female lawyer running in the central district of Dokki chose a cup, while others opted for the walking stick, the Ramadan lantern, the pencil or the rababa, a traditional Egyptian string instrument.
Nature-related symbols are considered safe choices, with doves, palm trees, grapes and suns among the most sought-after campaign logos.
Some would-be members of parliament wishing to convey a more modern image chose the light bulb, the aircraft and the mobile phone, while candidates in a more bellicose mood decided to run under the symbol of the tank, the sword or the handgun.
Independent candidate Adel Abdu is a contender for the prize of the healthiest symbol with a tennis racket, although courts are few and far between his destitute industrial neighborhood of Shubra al-Khima.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition force which has promised to mount a tough challenge to the ruling party in the elections, has no symbol strategy and leaves each candidate to make his pick.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies