Sunday, December 30, 2012
In this post I will explain how and why the voting behavior changed in each of Egypt’s regions in the past 2 years. The changes in some regions was astounding and it shedded light on Egypt’s future political landscape.
The March 2011 referendum on the constitution amendments passed almost unanimously. 77% of voters voted Yes on these amendments that paved the way for the MB and their ilk to reach power in Egypt. In the parliament elections that took place in December 2011, the Islamist parties swept through and won around 70% of the vote. Change in voting behavior started to appear on the horizon in the presidential elections that took place 6 months after the parliament. This alteration in voter behavior was very interesting indeed.
Cairo: Islamists lost the upper class, middle class and surprisingly the urban poor.
Cairo in 2011 was not that different from the other regions. It voted for the March 2011 constitutional amendments by 63%, and voted for the MB and the Salafi Nour party by 54%. Drastic changes started to appear in the presidential elections. The non-Islamists swept through the upper class and middle class areas of Cairo. Hamdeen Sabahy surprised all analysts and came in first in Cairo during round one of the elections. No one would have anticipated that, not even Sabahy himself. Shafik came in second. In round two, Shafik won Cairo by 56%. In the last referendum, Cairo voted No by 57%.
The Cairo developments showed something very profound. Islamists, namely MB and Salafis, lost almost all of the educated middle class living in the urban areas. In fact, if we looked at the results of the urban areas in Giza and even the poorer Delta region, we’ll notice how the middle class turned against the Islamists. This happened in a 6 months period after the Islamists won the majority in parliament!
What is even more startling than the change we saw in the urban middle class vote was what happened in the voting behavior of the Cairo urban poor. There are several huge poor neighbourhoods scattered around Cairo. Areas such as Ain Shams, Matareyah, Rod el Farag, these were always Islamists playgrounds. My jaws dropped open when I heard of the results coming out of these areas during the presidential elections. Sabahy won these areas in round 1 and Shafik won there in round two. Even in the last referendum, the No vote was quiet substantial.
Alexandria: The BIG BIG Surprise
Alexandria is know, or was known, to be the bastion of Salafi power in Egypt. Once a beautiful cosmopolitan city, the city turned into a playground for the MB and Salafis during the Mubarak years. The ruling National Democratic Party had to always resort to widespread rigging in order to beat the MB candidate,
In the parliament elections, 66% of Alexandrians voted for the MB and the Salafi Nour party. No one was surprised back then. The huge surprise came in the presidential elections. The Alexandrian voter defied the Salafis who were campaigning for Morsy and the other Salafis who were rooting for Abul Fotouh and ended up voting for Hamdeen Sabahy who came in first. That was unprecedented. Even in the constitution referendum, Alex voted 44% No. I really believe that if we added the 5-10% rigging margin, Alex would be a No vote governorate. Remember, Alex voted for the Islamists by 66% in the parliament elections!
Besides elections numbers, what happened near Al Qaed Ibrahim mosque a couple of weeks ago showed that Alex had definitely changed and finally shrugged off the reputation that Alexandrians have replaced the Swiss, Greeks, Jews and Italians, who were once living there, with angry bearded religious zealots. During the clashes between Alex’s youth and the Salafis, I was staring at my TV screen and literally screaming “what?? in Alex??? Salafis being chased out by youth in Alex??? This can’t be real!”
Delta: Delta proved that money and religion are not the only way to win votes in Egypt.
Many of us, upper and middle class Egyptians, believe that Islamists win in Egypt because they influence poor uneducated people with religion and bribe them with cash and other products such as oil and sugar. When a friend or colleague tells me this, I always shoot back with “then how did Sabahy and Shafik fare so well in Delta? Shafik even beat Morsi there”.
While bribery and religion do play a major role in winning votes, Delta proved that that they are not sufficient in an Egypt that is rapidly discovering the true colors of the Islamists; and especially the MB. The poor illiterate voter in Monofiyah, Sharkia, Kafr el Sheikh and Dakahleyah heard his mosque imam tell him to vote Morsy and he ended up voting for Sabahy or Shafik. That poor illiterate voter voted for the Islamists in the parliament elections by 65%!
In the last constitution referendum, the No vote in Delta was 40%. This is close to Alex’s 44%! Taking rigging into consideration, that 40% could well be over 50% especially that Delta is one of the areas where the regime has almost free hand to forge. Delta voted 84% Yes in the March 2011 referendum! WOW!
Upper Egypt: where sectarianism rules!
Upper Egypt has almost the same poverty and illiteracy rates as Delta, however, the voting behavior throughout the past 2 years was very different. Upper Egypt remained steadfast in its loyalty to the Islamists. Why? Here is why:
The Upper Egyptian voter goes to the polling station with one thing in mind: what his/her Christian neighbour will vote for. Mohamed goes to the polling station with George in his mind. In the Delta, there is no George. The Delta voter is more at ease to defy his mosque imam and vote for what he/she thinks is right.
Want to win future elections? Make Mohamed think about bread and butter instead of George.
The Canal: Port Said going on its own way
The Suez Canal region is composed of the governorates of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said. The MB organization was founded in Ismailia and Salafis are very powerful in Suez. The Islamists remained dominate there in 2011 and 2012 (that didn’t stop the main HQ of the MB from getting torched during the recent protests though!). Port Said, however, decided to take a different course. The old port the resides on the intersection of the Canal with the Mediterranean voted for the Islamists by 55% in the parliament elections. In the presidential elections, Sabahy won by a landslide there in round one. Shafik beat Morsy in round two. In the last referendum, the No and Yes vote were evenly divided. However, I have no doubt that Port Said in reality voted No.
If the above analysis proved anything, it proved that the land is ripe and ready for harvest. The land just needs a viable alternative to the MB. And by viable I mean an opposition that is 1) organized, 2) has money, 3) and can convince voters that it has an alternative plan for bringing Egypt out of abyss it is in now.
N.B. I’ve prepared a spreadsheet with each region’s results from the March 2011 referendum till the last constitution referendum.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
In this post I will try to help you make sense out of the referendum numbers and look at the whole thing from the right perspective.
We don’t say no
I had no doubt that the constitution will pass even without any rigging. In fact, I was surprised at the 44% who said No in round 1. See, humans in generals rarely say no. It takes a lot of courage and study in order for a person to challenge the status quo. I know little about the history of constitutional referendums worldwide, but I know for a fact that the vast majority were approved.
We had 22 referendums in Egypt since 1952. All of them were voted yes. The vast majority of Egyptians are not concerned about the constitution as much as they’re concerned about putting food on the table. Very few even are aware of the effect of a constitution on the direction that the country will head to. Very few feel the constitution can in fact have a positive impact on their lives. The 1971 constitution had a lot of very good articles concerning freedom and human rights; were they applied? The answer is no. The debate over the constitution was cocooned within the intellectual class. The vast majority of Egyptians were not paying much attention; thus the very low turnout.
A Yes/No vote in a referendum is very different from voting for presidential candidate X or party Y. In a referendum vote, most people go for whatever will bring stability; and Yes is more stable than the obscure No. It is much easier to vote for a person or a party than to vote on a document that you don’t understand.
Last year, during SCAF’s era, there were attempts by the “civilian force” to write the constitution before the parliament elections. The Islamists stood against this with all their might. They wanted to do what they just did a few weeks ago: write the constitution on their own. Notice this: the Islamists knew that if the constitution was written under SCAF rule, it would have still been voted yes! Why didn’t the Islamists, especially the MB, agree to write a constitution before elections and then rally people to vote No? Aren’t they the most powerful and organized political force? They knew that in spite of their power, people will still vote for the constitution even if it declared that the state’s official religion was Scientology!
Let me give you another example. When the protests against SCAF were at their uttermost, one of the generals came out and gave the revolutionaries an ultimatum. “We can have a referendum on our presence,” he said. The general knew that in case of a referendum, the people would vote for stability; which back then was embodied in SCAF. Yes, he knew people would have voted for the military junta to stay in power.
Only 33% were moved by “God’s constitution”
The turnout in the referendum was unbelievably low. It was the lowest turnout in any of the elections we had since the revolution. The Islamists worked frantically to get out the vote. They have portrayed this constitution as “Quran version 2”. In spite of all what they did to convince people to vote Yes, only 33% moved their butts and went to the polling station; 36% out of which voted No! In other words, out of the 52 million eligible voters, only 20% voted Yes for this constitution.
The above fact indicates that no political faction can claim the absolute majority of adherents. The Islamists are just successful because they are organized and they have the cash. The low turnout is a clear indication that the use of religion for political gains is starting to lose its effect. Very good news!
Rigging was rampant
This referendum was managed, monitored and tallied by the MB (a.k.a ruling regime). Around 90% of the judges refused to supervise the referendum and in several cases voters found out university professors and lawyers “playing judge”. This referendum lacked any of the elements that guarantee fair elections.
Christians, who constitute a sizable community in Upper Egypt, were kept away from the polls by a systematic campaign of intimidation. A Christian porter who works at a friend’s house told me that he won’t go to his hometown El Meniya to vote because he was so afraid of the MB and Salafis. “None of my family members back home are going to vote. They’ll all stay at home,” he told me. The results that came out of Upper Egypt revealed that Christians were definitely kept away from the polls. Sohag, for instance, voted for Shafik by 42%. In the referendum, Sohag voted 21% No! This is simply impossible. Hamza Hendawi from The Associated Press wrote an excellent report from Assiut on what happened to the Christian community in Upper Egypt.
How much of an impact did rigging have? I believe rigging and other fraudulent behavior, such as intimidating Christians, altered the final true result by around 10%; so I believe the true result would have been 45% No and 55% Yes in case of a fair referendum.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Why I Am Worried:
I’m worried because there is no viable organized well financed alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) up till now. The MB octopus is tying its tentacles around every branch of government and institution, and I believe it won’t be easy to get rid of them since we don’t have a viable political alternative.
I’m worried because Mubarak simply used mercenaries yet the MB are backed by a portion of the population and militias ready to kill for their organization’s interests. Mubarak’s mercenaries were united by political interests and money, the MB’s support base and militias are united by dogma. You can beat money but you cannot beat dogma.
I’m worried because the MB constitution is far from what we were dreaming of on February 11th 2011, when Mubarak was toppled. This constitution helps the MB and their allies to reinforce their power and since we don’t have a political alternative yet, it will be almost impossible to change the disastrous clauses later on. According to the unilaterally imposed law by the MB, this constitution passed by a 50%+1 majority and it needs two thirds of parliament to change any clause in it. The MB knew very well that this was a divisive constitution and it would never gain a landslide approval.
I’m worried because the MB have allied themselves very strongly with the Salafis who will definitely demand a payback for their services. All the crazy articles in the constitution were implanted by the Salafis and only God knows how we can stop them later on from imposing their own version of religion on us. Al Azhar now has the final say on issues concerning religion and the Salafis have a plan of getting rid of the moderate Azhar Grand Sheikh to plant one of their own. Salafi leader Borhamy details this plan in this shocking video.
I’m worried because we are on our own now. The military generals are clearly on the MB’s side, at least for now, because they want to safeguard the army’s articles in the constitution. The US’ reaction towards MB’s dictatorship was very disappointing because the MB gave the Obama administration what I call ” A Mubarak +”. They’ve promised to do everything Mubarak did visa-vie Israel plus have greater influence on Hamas than Mubarak once had. The fight against MB dictatorship will be the revolutionaries vs MB, no external factors will weigh in, at least for the coming days and months and possibly years.
I’m worried because the MB and their allies were so busy consolidating power instead of addressing the bread and butter issues of the country. To make things worse, they have adopted the same neoliberal economic policies of Mubarak that proved to be a failure in Egypt. In case of an economic collapse, everyone loses.
Why I Am Still Optimistic:
I am optimistic because, thanks to their mistakes and greed for power, I can see the tide shifting against the Islamists; add their economic policies, and the tide is expected to shift even more. Judging from the last presidential elections figures and round one of the constitutional referendum, it is quiet obvious the Islamists have lost nearly all of the middle class and lower middle class and the urban areas in general. They have even lost the Cairo urban poor. Two years ago, it was unthinkable that an area such as Matariyah would vote against the Islamists. And who would have imagined that the day would come when thousands of Alexandrian youth would chase away Salafis and MB who were bused in from outside Alex? This happened yesterday and I was startled indeed. We are witnessing a changing Egypt and we have to admit that in spite of the gloomy cloud we’re seeing on the horizon.
I am optimistic because I can see that the main voter base of the Islamists shifted from all of Egypt to just Upper Egypt. If you omitted the Upper Egypt numbers from the last presidential elections, Ahmed Shafik would have been president. Unlike Delta for example, the vote in Upper Egypt is very sectarian due to the high concentration of Christians there. The Upper Egyptian voter decides whom or what to vote for based on the voting choice of his Christian neighbor. The Islamists will receive a major blow if the Upper Egyptian voter removed the word “Christians” from his mind and replaced it with the words “bread and butter”.
I am optimistic because I believe that it is literally impossible for another Mubarak, or Mubaraks, to rule us. We learned how to protest, we found our voice and the revolution will continue even if the constitution was passed. The constitution is not the end, I believe it will be the beginning of a fight against a fascist organization that retained Mubarak’s regime in order to rule through it.
I’m optimistic because I can see that finally the revolutionaries have united. Even the political opposition started to unite. The opposition to the Islamists today is way more developed and mature than at the beginning of the year. I believe the land is very ripe, it’s just awaiting a viable political alternative to harvest it.
Last but not least, I am optimistic because we have Rana El Sayed. The high school girl who led a march to Tahrir against the constitution and faced an interrogation by the ministry of education with absolute boldness. I am optimistic because we have many Ranas. And these Ranas are unstoppable.