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Your Votes, Please — Cairo

by Anne Miltenburg

In the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, the Egyptian interim government soon faced its first design challenge: how to ensure that all people, in a country with an illiteracy rate of 30%, would be able to cast their votes. Taking cues from India, where the concept was first conceived, the democracy-to-be introduced a pictorial language. Each aspiring representative was randomly allocated a visual symbol to use in their campaign—a sun, donkey, umbrella and lawn mower amongst others—allowing illiterate voters to identify the candidates on the voting ballot. Old structures of power were not so easily designed away, however. Newcomers on the political scene complained that symbols associated with the most positive meanings—the camel (strength and patience), the crescent (religious piety), and the date tree (bearing nutritious fruit), were given to associates of former president Hosni Mubarak.

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