During the 2012 parliament elections, Delta and Upper Egypt, Egypt’s largest voting blocks, voted overwhelmingly for the Islamist parties whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis. Observers back then concluded the obvious: Islamist power is concentrated in the underdeveloped poor regions of Egypt.
During the presidential elections, when we started to notice shifts away from the Islamists due to their dreadful performance in parliament, Delta surprised us all by voting for Shafik and Hamdeen Sabahy in stage one, it voted for Shafik in stage two. While the rural areas in Delta voted for the MB candidate, the cumulative vote of Delta was in favor of Shafik. Morsi won in Upper Egypt by a landslide. In fact, without Upper Egypt, Morsi would have lost the popular vote in all of Egypt.
In the 2014 referedum, the turnout in Delta was very high compared to other regions in Egypt. Turnout in 2014 increased by a whopping 13.5 percentage points versus the 2012 referendum.
Why Delta, which is as poor and illiterate as Upper Egypt, votes differently now? Why did the majority there turn against the Islamists? I believe a big part of the reason lies in the sectarianism in Upper Egypt; it has the highest concentration of Christians in Egypt. The Delta voter is not concerned so much with “the other”, he or she is relaxed and can freely turn against the Islamists without caring about siding with the neighboring “enemy”. The neighbor there is Muslim. Sectarianism is rampant in Upper Egypt, most sectarian conflicts happen there and the “Muslim vs Christian” conflict constitute a huge part of the voters’ psyche.