Cairo proved to be very anti-MB. It voted for Shafik in the presidential elections, voted “No” in the 2012 referendum and in 2014 the turnout increased by 5.5 percentage points versus 2012. These results indicate clearly that the urban middle class has turned against the Brotherhood, which is also evident in the professional syndicates where the MB has been losing one election after the other (MB started losing syndicate elections during Morsi’s term).
Giza, which is opposite to Cairo on the other side of the Nile, is composed of affluent urban areas and very poor semi-urban semi-rural neighborhoods such as Kirdasa, the scene of the gruesome lynching of policemen after police cracked down on the pro-Morsi camps last August. The affluent areas including the poor urban neighborhoods such as Imbaba witnessed high turnout in the 2014 referendum (poor urban areas in Cairo and Giza turned against the MB since the presidential elections). The other more rural oriented areas which are densely populated with voters remained Islamist strongholds and hence Giza as a whole witnessed a decline in turnout by 2.5 percentage points (-2.5% versus 2012).
Once dubbed as the bastion of Salafism in Egypt, the picturesque Mediterranean city proved this assumption wrong since the first stage of the presidential elections when Hamdeen Sabahy came in first. Even though Alex does have a large Salafi voting base, it looks as if it has more urban middle class voters who, like their Cairo counterparts, have turned against the Brotherhood. Alexandria witnessed a 2.2 percentage points increase in 2014.
The surprise! This huge area of Egypt, composed of urban cities and rural villages, voted overwhelmingly for the Islamists in the parliament elections and we all thought that this fertile land which is nestled between the two branches of the Nile will be in Islamists’ hands forever. That was understandable back then. Delta is poor, very conservative and with a high rate of illiteracy, the perfect soil for Islamists to use religion for their political gains. Delta proved us wrong and broke this correlation.
Delta voted for Shafik and Sabahy in stage one of the presidential elections, Shafik in stage two. In the 2014 referendum, Delta had a whopping increase in turnout by 13.5 percentage points, the largest increase across Egypt.
Upper Egypt has almost the same socioeconomic characteristics of Delta yet it did not exhibit the same voting pattern. Turnout in this region declined by 3.9 percentage points even though the tourist areas Luxor and Aswan had an increase in turnout versus 2012. Upper Egypt remains the largest stronghold of Islamist power in Egypt. Morsi would have lost the presidential elections if it wasn’t for the votes he won in Upper Egypt.
How UE behaved in referendum 2014 indicates that the power of the so-called families and tribes is overestimated. These large powerful clans, who vote according to a deal stricken by whomever is in power and their chief, are definitely large in number but it looks as if they’re not large enough to sway the entire region towards a particular vote.
(My future post will explain why Delta and Upper Egypt behave differently despite their similar socioeconomic conditions)
The Suez Canal cities are Port Said, Islamailia, and Suez. The first two had an increase in turnout but turnout declined in Suez. Port Said, which rose up against Morsi and the Brotherhood early this year following the Port Said Prison massacre, had a 13 percentage points increase. The effect of how the mood changed in Port Said is very evident in the large increase in turnout.
Ismailia, where people played football with army soldiers during Morsi’s imposed curfew, had a 3.2 percentage points increase. Ironically, Ismailia was the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.
Suez, on the other hand, had a negative turnout (38.7% in 2012 vs 34.5% in 2014). The city has a large Islamist voting base which affected the turnout in this referendum.
Matruh and Fayoum:
Matruh and Fayoum are two governorates with a very significant Salafi base. They had the highest decline in turnout across Egypt, -20.2% and -11.5% respectfully. The vote in Matruh and Fayoum proves that the Salafi Nour Party, which supported the June 3 roadmap, did nothing to turn out the Salafi vote. The Nour Party, the only Islamist entity in the post-July 3 establishment, just wants a seat around the table and it is willing to become the current regime’s “Islamist fig leaf” to get that seat.
Red Sea and South Sinai
The most important tourist areas in Egypt. Both witnessed a positive increase in turnout. Voters there voted for tourists to come back.
Unexpectedly, North Sinai had a slight increase in turnout versus 2012 (0.4%). This area is witnessing continuous fighting between the Egyptian army and jihadists. Observers, including myself, believe that military actions in this part of Sinai is doing little in winning hearts and minds of the civilians there. The turnout was a surprise to me. Is public opinion shifting in favor of the military or are civilians tired of the current situation that they believe voting for the constitution might bring stability to their turbulent region?