How Cairo and Alexandria voted in round one of the presidential elections might be one of the most insightful observations from the two elections we had this year. I always imagine this scene when I explain the magnitude of what the Alexandrians and the Cairenes did in round one.
Imagine an Alexandrian walking along the picturesque corniche of Alexandria, a city considered to be the bastion of Islamist power in Egypt. He passed besides Al Qaid Ibrahim mosque and overheard hardliner Salafi preacher Ahmed al-Mahalawi admonishing his followers about voting for Mohamed Morsi lest they go to hell. He walked away from the mosque and approached the headquarters of the Salafi Dawah and overheard another Salafi maniac, Yaser Borhamy, telling his followers to vote for Abdel Meniem Aboul Fotouh because his group have struck a deal with him. What did our Alexandrian friend end up doing? He voted for Hamdeen Sabahy. Alexandria overwhelmingly voted for Sabahy in round one of the presidential elections.
Now, what made areas such as Cairo, Alexandria, Delta, the Red Sea and South Sinai, that voted overwhelmingly for the Islamists in the parliament elections, opt for someone else in the presidential election? Two things: the parliament and the alternative. Dismayed at how the Islamists have performed in the parliament and encouraged by the presence of a viable alternative, millions of Egyptians voted against the same people they’ve elected in parliament.
What does that teach us? If you want to weaken the MB, give them power! Once the MB turn from being the oppressed political group into the ruling class, their holy halos start to disintegrate. People see them as they truly are: a group after its own self interests just as any other political entity. During Mubarak, they have promised that “Islam is the solution”, today many people are starting to see that religion to the MB is simply a bridge they use to reach their political goals, just like any other religion-based right wing party. During Mubarak, the MB have championed the cause for Palestine. A few days ago, Morsi sent Shimon Peres a letter. Voila.
It’s sweet giving the MB power and watching them mess up with it. They’re messing up because they’ve been promising the moon for 80 years. Never promise the moon to a people who finally found their voice.