Thursday, June 21, 2012

Round Two: A Quick Look at the Presidential Run-Off

            Just when the pace of events in Egypt appears to be slowing down, it speeds up again.  It’s been four days since the second round of the presidential election but the outcome has not been officially announced and it’s already fading into the distant past.  As things stand it appears that Muhammad Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, won the election with 52 percent of the votes cast.  The official results have not yet been announced by the Presidential Election Commission and there is concern about what its announcement will be.  Some wags have predicted that it will announce that former Prime Minister and Air Force General Ahmad Shafiq won with 90 percent of the vote.

            The Muslim Brothers, among others, have published figures based on the vote tallies at the governorate and district level where they were allowed to see the results.   So has the Ahram newspaper which I have used for writing this entry. The Carter Center has voiced reservations about the political context within which the election occurred but less so about its mechanics:

“These provisions helped to instil confidence in the final results by ensuring that agents had verifiable information regarding electoral results in their jurisdictions. In addition, Carter Center witnesses reported improved access to District General Committees, although domestic witnesses continued to face obstacles to meaningful observation there.  However, given the fact that there is no outside access to the final aggregation of results, it is essential that the PEC publish vote results broken down to the polling station level at the earliest possible instance on their website. In meetings with The Carter Center, the PEC has committed to do so within one week of the election.”

            Without more, lower-level results than we have and adequate complementary demographic statistics it is no more possible to understand what the presidential vote means than it was with the parliamentary vote.  We can guess about the transition from the first to the second round with some level of confidence. Generally speaking it seems plausible that Shafiq picked up Amr Moussa’s voters from the first round and that Morsi picked up some combination of votes from Abu al-Futouh and Hamdeen Sabbahi.  About 10 % more people voted in the run-off than in the first round but Morsi could not have picked up both Abu al-Futouh’s voters and Sabbahi’s or he would have won more decisively than he seems to have.   

For the moment the best I can think of to do is to look at briefly at some of the districts where Shafiq and Morsi won and compare those to the inaccurate impressions one has of the districts.  There were some surprises.  Without time to make an adequate assessment of instant and popular analyses, my sense is that most people think that, in general, Christians, the well-off, touristic areas, and those  who live in particular strongholds of the old regime voted for Shafiq whereas the lower middle class, the poor, and the devout Muslims voted for Mursi.   This is itself a reflection of a set of images long beloved in Egypt (and elsewhere) about the relationship of class to nationalism refracted through voting patterns.  The poor and the working class are most committed to revolution and patriotism the argument goes.  Unfortunately as generations of communists and nationalists painfully discovered, it ain’t necessarily so.

            Shafiq won a majority of the votes in Cairo (the city is the governorate) or 1.89 million out of 3.4 million cast.  As might be expected he did well in Shubra, Madinat Nasr, Ain Shams, and the silk-stocking neighborhood of Qasr al-Nil.  More surprisingly he also strongly carried the poorer neighborhoods of Darb al-Ahmar, El-Zawiya el-Hamra, and Sayyida Zainab.   El-Zawiya Al-Hamra returned parliamentary representatives from the MB as did much of the rest of Cairo.  So Shafiq’s victory in these districts is indicative of some change.  Economic distress is one possibility but another is that other patterns of religious mobilization among the Muslim population are beginning to occur which could include both Sufi orders or simply political choices reflecting a stronger orientation to the world of the Azhar (which did not institutionally support a candidate).

            Morsi did exceptionally well in the province of Fayoum with 593,000 votes out of 762,000 cast (just a note: I’ve rounded all the numbers to the nearest thousand).  Shafiq, on the the other hand, did exceptionally well in Minufia where he gained 947,000 out of 1.32 million votes cast.  Those who savor the irony of fate (a popular Egyptian Facebook meme these days) might notice that the only district in Minufia Morsi won was “Sadat.”  This outcome may be due to some character of the province (or what we might account for in the language of heavier statistical artillery, fixed effects).  It would be easy to make up a story about Minufia as a conservative bulwark of old regime remnants or benighted peasants in which case I suppose Fayoum would be where the revolutionary (or at least Islamist but less plausibly more Muslim) peasants live.  More likely there may be significant sociological or economic differences between these two areas that would be worth investigation.  What is clear is that rurality alone doesn’t seem to explain much.

            Other provinces suggest a very different kind of story, more like that of Cairo.  In Giza the two candidates split the vote, but Shafiq won Imbaba the lower-class district where religious violence flared in May 2011 and which had been an “Islamic emirate” in the 1990s.  The more upscale areas of Doqqi and Agouza went for Shafiq while in the more rural districts of Kerdasa and Hawamdieh Mursi won heavily.  Atfih, another site of violence against Christians, voted very strongly for Mursi.  In Alexandria, Amiriyah’s two districts overwhelmingly supported Morsi which could suggest either that inter-religious strife plays a mobilizing role for electoral politics in Egypt or that areas with a tendency for high levels of Islamist organization are also more likely to experience religious conflict.  Or, if taken in concert with the results of Imbaba, it may suggest that there are some important differences in religious conflict and its impact on various areas.  The conflict in Imbaba may have appeared to local residents to have had its roots in outside issues.  It developed out of a claim by a Muslim man not originally from the area that a church was holding his wife, who converted from Christianity, a virtual prisoner.  In Atfih and Amiriyah the conflicts appear to have originally been rooted in local antagonisms including property disputes.

            Shafiq did exceptionally well in the areas in and around the cities of Mansourah and Mit Ghamr in Daqahliyah, but the most surprising results appear to be in Gharbiya province.  Shafiq crushed Mursi in and around Tanta as well as in and around the famed working-class textile center of Mahallah al-Kubra and in Kafr al-Zayyat.  It is impossible to say how well Shafiq did with working-class voters but he clearly did very well in urban areas historically associated with strikes, Egypt’s left, and the industrial working class.   Comparisons with earlier elections this year cannot be very meaningful because the voting districts differ across elections.  For example, Gharbiya had two districts for the proportional representation contests for the parliament whereas the presidential results are reported on the basis the regular administrative divisions of the province.  It is nevertheless worth noting that Mursi received fewer votes than the combined total of the FJP and Salafi parties (totals are reported for both Nour and Construction and Development) which together received more than 50 percent of the province’s vote.  Together these parties received more than 650,000 votes in the parliamentary election in Gharbiya but Morsi was credited with 583,000 votes in the presidential contest. The provisional (but complete) returns for the presidential election in the province reported by Al-Ahram give Shafiq 993,000 votes out of 1.58 million cast.  These are clearly much larger than the totals for the Wafd and Election Bloc which won seats with something like 100,000 votes across the two districts that made up the province. 

This story was somewhat lightly repeated in one other area with similar associations, Shubra al-Khayma in Qalyubiya province on the northern outskirts of Cairo.  The equally strong textile center and old leftist stronghold of Kafr al-Dawar, on the other hand, gave 71,000 votes out of 106,000 to Mursi and the markaz Kafr al-Dawar also voted heavily for Mursi (103,000 votes out of 145,000 cast).  

            Much of the meaning of the vote remains hidden from our view given the paucity of information.   But it is, I think, apparent that the Egyptian electorate continues to change as it is presented with different challenges rather than being a monolithic bloc as may have appeared during the March 2011 referendum.  It also suggests that the use of the term “felool” (“remnants” of the old regime) will remain a powerful political tool.  But it may not be a good idea to base analysis of Egypt’s ongoing politics on the idea that the electoral base of politicians such as Shafiq, obviously himself a remnant of the old regime, is itself a stable, uniform, and minor feature of Egyptian political life. 


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