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.