Here's the trailer for The war around us, on our friends Ayman Mohieldin and Sherine Tadros' coverage of the 2009 Gaza war. They went on to do great things covering the 2011 uprising in Egypt, also for al-Jazeera English, which they have both since left.
From the Beltone newsletter:
Freedom and Justice Party wins 47.2% of lower house parliamentary seats, followed by Al Nour party winning 24.7% of seats
Freedom and Justice Party wins 47.2% of lower house parliamentary seats, followed by Al Nour party winning 24.7% of seats, Al Ahram reported citing the Head of Egypt’s Higher Elections Council, who announced yesterday the final results for the lower house parliamentary elections
Mohamed ElBaradei has just declared that he will not run for the presidency. From Reuters:
CAIRO Jan 14 (Reuters) - Mohamed ElBaradei pulled out of the race for the Egyptian presidency on Saturday, saying "the previous regime" was still running the country which has been without a head of state since Hosni Mubarak was deposed last year.
"My conscience does not permit me to run for the presidency or any other official position unless it is within a democratic framework," the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a statement.
There have been several reasons cited, besides the whole "democratic framework" business. Aside from the manner in which SCAF has run things, ElBaradei is also said to oppose SCAF's desire to rapidly draft a new constitution before the presidential elections are held — a step criticized for being against the agreed transition order. The question now is whether the opinions of anyone but SCAF and the Muslim Brothers matter.
ElBaradei has been a lackluster political presence for the last six months, with many of his erstwhile supporters believing his political career was over, largely because of his own lack of energy. Most believed he stood little chance in an election.
Nonetheless, ElBaradei's announcement may have an impact on mainstream views of the Egyptian revolution thus far. His charge that the Mubarak regime is still in place should fan the flames of those who want a second revolution on January 25, and counters the Muslim Brothers' narrative that one must go on with the transition through parliament until a handover of power to a new president. It also encourages the narrative of a dastardly MB-military alliance against a genuine democratic transformation of the country (further evidence of that would be MB assurances of immunity to the SCAF generals — not necessarily a bad compromise, but in this context quite damaging to the MB).
The big question may be what's next: if he's not running for the presidency, is ElBaradei willing to take the lead in the movement against the current transition, including further protests against the SCAF? That's not clear just yet, and somehow I doubt that a man who has shown aversion to street protests will take that route.
Update 2: Here's ElBaradei's video statement.
I attended the press conference organized by the Carter Center this morning, featuring Jimmy Carter. The full press release is below, but the basic takeaway word to describer the Center's estimate of the conduct of the first post-Mubarak elections is "acceptable".
President Carter used the word several times, and if you drill down in the details of their report you can tell they have major reservations about the conduct of the elections, particularly the vote-counting (some of this has already been taken on board by the Egyptian authorities, for instance the idea of counting votes inside of polling stations rather than in "chaotic" (the Carter Center's word) polling stations. My impression, talking on background with several people there, is that there were some serious problems with the elections, most of which were due to disorganization rather than malice, and that in any case since most of the Egyptian political class is accepting the results, there is no reason to make a bigger deal of it. Perhaps the biggest note of disappointment comes with the very few seats won by women and the fact that there was minimal effort to secure a better chance for female candidates.
The other amusing thing is that much of the press conference was not about the elections, but rather the post-elections battle between parliament (i.e. the Muslim Brothers, mostly) and the military, and to a lesser extent Camp David. Carter stressed that all of the party leaders he spoke to were in favor of maintaining the treaty, and again chose to stress that the Camp David agreement had two parts: one on Egyptian-Israeli peace, which has been implemented, and another that he described as "a guarantee of Palestinian rights," which he had already said recently both Israel and Egypt had fallen short on (I posted on that yesterday).
On the relationship between the military and civilians, Carter said that he was given the impression (noted in an interview with the NYT two days ago), in his meeting with SCAF, that they intended to retain some power after the transfer of power to a new president. Here's David Kirkpatrick's Times story from Wednesday:
CAIRO — Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that after meeting with Egypt’s military rulers he doubted they would fully submit to the authority of the civilian democracy they had promised to install.
“ ‘Full civilian control’ is a little excessive, I think,” Mr. Carter said, after describing a meeting he had Tuesday with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF. “I don’t think the SCAF is going to turn over full responsibility to the civilian government. There are going to be some privileges of the military that would probably be protected.”
Mr. Carter’s assessments of Egypt’s political transition are significant in part because his role in the Camp David accords made him a revered figure here, with singular access at all levels of the Egyptian government and society. He was here Wednesday with a team from his human rights organization, the Carter Center, to help monitor the end of the last day of the final round of the first parliamentary elections since the ouster last February of President Hosni Mubarak.
However, SCAF issued a statement denying that it intends to retain some power after the transfer of power to civilians, as it has in the past. Carter gracefully accepted their correction, did not appear convinced, and seemed eager to discuss this "misunderstanding."
The full press release from the Carter Center is after the jump, and contains detailed recommendations.
The beginning of the third and last (at last!) round of Egypt's elections started today, in the context of the post-election debate — notably what will govern parliament-SCAF relations in the coming period — already more important than the poll. A fundamental mistake of many analysts in looking at the Egyptian results is to focus on their results (i.e. over 70% Islamist control of parliament) rather than the elections themselves. In doing so they have glossed over the many flaws with these elections, from their poor planning to their many irregularies, fraud and the role the military and the judiciary has played at times in favor of some parties. Such an analytical error is most evident in the kind of op-ed written by Jon Alterman who claims that the elections were Egypt's real revolution (never mind his call for a "compromise" on Egyptian democracy, ably critiqued here and here). There are hundreds of lawsuits and claims in these shoddily run elections, the decent thing would be to at least wait for their outcome. To me, the recent elections are much better than last year's, but in some respects comparable to the 2005 ones or even elections in the 1980s.
Anyway, the chances are that the elections will be swallowed because the international community wants to see stability in Egypt, because the SCAF (or at least parts of it) wants them to stand and use their shoddiness as a negotiating card, and because the Muslim Brothers prefer to accept a bad election that brought them to power (hence they complain about irregularities, but sotto voce).
The first two rounds left us with the MB's Freedom and Justice Party with over 48% of seats, and they may very well make over 50% by the end of the third round. Which might be cleaner for all concerned, allowing the MB to be a narrow majority in parliament rather than the plurality. In many respects, the debate has already moved on to other issues, such as:
- What deal will be hammered out between the FJP and the SCAF over parliament's powers?
- What deal will be hammered out between the FJP and the SCAF over the constituent assembly?
- Will the FJP enter into any alliances?
The first two questions are the main focus at the moment, because the need for the third is contingent on them. It's hard to prejudge the results ahead of the coming negotiations, but it's both clear that the MB is ready to negotiate (for instance it is ready to promise the SCAF immunity from prosecution for the violence it ordered during the transition) but that it is not ready to give away everything to the generals. Unfortunately, the twin urgency of striking this deal and getting a constitution approved before the presidential elections is likely to produce a pretty bad document. In other words, yet again the need for real transitional justice and the building of a better foundation for Egyptian politics is being sacrified to the political considerations of the moment.
I will leave you will everything you might want to know about the elections' results so far in this handy PDF prepared by Jacopo Carbonari. Enjoy.
FIRST came unsigned leaflets claiming that the candidate for the Egyptian Bloc, a secularist group, was a communist atheist. Then pamphlets accusing him of being a capitalist crony of the disgraced former regime appeared. Other rumours swirled around the parliamentary district in rural Upper Egypt where he was standing. Some said the Egyptian Bloc was backed by Freemasons and Jews. Others fingered the Coptic Church. On the morning of the vote, pick-up trucks mounted with megaphones fanned out to deliver a coup de grace. Congratulations to the Egyptian Bloc, they blared. Its candidate has been appointed a cabinet minister in Cairo and has withdrawn from the race.
Politics is a rough game everywhere. As it happens the Egyptian Bloc won that seat anyway. But one might have expected a gentler touch from the Islamist parties contesting Egypt's first free parliamentary elections in decades, which enter the second of three regional rounds of voting this week. The Islamists claim the high moral ground, saying they want a return to the principles and values of the pure faith. Yet Egypt's two main Islamist political forces, the Muslim Brotherhood and the puritan Salafists, which together look set to capture as many as two thirds of parliamentary seats, are playing electoral hardball not only against their secular opponents, but against each other too.
What strikes me is that not more dirty tricks have been used against Islamists. The former regime use to be pretty good at it, and they are vulnerable to charges of working for foreign interests (Saudi, Iran...) as well as (perversely) accusations of religious heresy: Salafis as against traditional Islam (the Sufi line) or crypto-al-Qaeda, Muslim Brothers as being a secret society with a bizarre worship of Hassan al-Banna (a frequent Salafi line of attack), use their morality against them by staging sting operations, alleging affairs, etc. Granted some of this has been done by secularists complaining about the Salafis being Saudi-funded, but that's pretty minor compared to the Salafis' (illegal) use of mosques for electioneering, etc.
The second round of Egypt's interminable elections for the People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, began this morning with little trouble. Here's a few things to look out for, since the extended process means lessons are being learned from earlier rounds:
- The SCAF has promised to be more vigilant about campaign violations, since hundreds of complaints (including about a dozen lawsuits to have the whole elections cancelled) have been filed. Let's see if they enforce things more stringently this time around — personally, I doubt it. But at least they will have had more time to prepare and get things right inside the polling stations.
- Last round, there were long queues on the first day of voting and few people out the second. This time around, expect some voters to skip the first day expecting the second to be faster.
- Attempts by secular forces to coordinate their strategies and pick winners in certain districts will be tried in some places, even if coalitions such as Revolution Continues haev expressed unwillingness to deal with Egyptian Bloc candidates with ties to the old regime. I expect very limited success for this strategy because it was too late to take candidates off the ballot, and no one has the reach to marshall voters into casting their ballot more strategically.
- That being said, voters will take their own initiative. I suspect the Egyptian Bloc, being the big winner among the secular parties in the first round, will be the logical choice for tactical voting.
- Expect the FJP-Nour battle to intensify, particularly for IC seats. Nour lost most of those in the runoff last time, while the FJP was taken off-guard by Nour's succcess in the first round. I wouldn't be surprised if we see tensions between FJP and Nour supporters, either.
- Menoufiya is a stronghold for the Muslim Brothers, but also for the felool. Lookout for the races in the Sadat family strongholds in the south, in Menouf and near Ahmed Ezz's steel factory, in Bagour in Kamal al-Shazli's old fiefdom.
- Beheira might also be interesting — expect it to go strongly MB with a possible sweet vengeance for local Damanhour son Gamal Heshmat, a member of the MB's Political Bureau and a victim of NDP machinations in the last decade (I'm not sure he's running, but in any case I expect FJP to get much sympathy for the past abuses they suffered there.)
- Sharqiya is mixed, but I wonder if the Wafd will do well there as it has done in the past through the Abaza family. My hunch is that the new electoral system creates districts that are too big to be used in this way (which is why the "big families" have failed thus far)
- Ismailiya and Suez: the former a conservative stronghold, would not be surprised if Nour does well there, the latter a strong working class and revolutionary presence — perhaps giving Revolution Continues a boost.
- I fear a Salafi triumph in Beni Suef, one of the most neglected governorates in Egypt, and Sohag will give us more indications of the Upper Egyptian vote: good chances there for the Egyptian Bloc due to a sizeable Christian population, and a test for the "big families" that once were for the NDP. These did not do well in Assiut (partly because the FJP and Egyptian Bloc has strong candidates), but Assiut is cosmopolitan compared to Sohag.
This is a guest post by Nathan Field.
One of the major themes I’ve noticed in the media after the Salafi al-Nour party won 25% of the votes in the first round of Egyptian elections was a surprise (or as in this week’s In Translation – anger). Yet their success shouldn’t be considered a surprise. Here are four points to ponder:
(1) Most popular T.V. stations to 25% of the votes isn’t a huge jump:
In 2008 Ahmed Hamam and I talked to dozens of Egyptian Salafis, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and various journalists and academics for a study on Salafi Satellite TV Stations in Egypt, published in Arab Media and Society in April 2009.
While precise Nielsen-style statistics don’t exist in Egypt, the general consensus was that Salafi-oriented TV stations such as Al-Nass and Al-Rahma, featuring charismatic preachers like Mohamed Hassan, were drawing higher ratings than any other TV stations in Egypt. So the evidence of the popularity of Salafism has been clear for years.
In this edition of the Arabist Podcast, we introduce a brand new segment, Regional Cliffnotes, and then delve into the initial results from the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections. It's a triumph for the Islamists, with the Muslim Brotherhood getting a comfortable plurality, but the real surprise is that Salafists are the country's second political force.
And that's something that worries us.
Links for this week's episode:
- Charts Galore: Round one of Egypt's elections
- Figuring out Egypt's elections: Qasr al-Nil
- Don't panic. Yet.
- Tahrir protesters don't speak for all in anxious Egypt - The National
Before we delve into the charts to analyse the results, a word of caution: while the results for the individual candidacy (IC) districts are official, there will be runoffs in all but four districts on Monday, and there could still be changes due to legal challenges due to campaign violations. Still, there is valuable information to be mined here for various purposes: seeing who the runoffs are between and voting accordingly — for instance if you're a liberal can't stand the Salafists, you might vote for their Muslim Brotherhood competitor just to ward them off, or conversely you may want to seek out those districts where a non-Islamist may still stand a chance. Likewise if you're a Muslim Brother, this shows which districts are battlegrounds to concentrate on — there are many districts split between Salafists and Brothers, for instance.
Even more caution is necessary with the proportional representation (PR) districts, for which all results and estimates used below have been collated from the media, since there have been no official announcements. Eventually, for both IC and PR districts, it will be fascinating to see the complete information on the votes cast — anecdotally, we for instance know that in a place like Fayoum district #2 — mostly split between the Salafists and the Brothers — one-third of votes got wasted on tiny parties that stood no chance.
For the meantime, considering the appalling lack of diligence and transparency of the Higher Elections Commission, we must make do with what we have.
The big picture
The above map, based on our previous chart of Egypt's political parties, represents more or less the ones that have garnered enough votes to count, with each party represented according to the number of seats it obtained (or may obtain following runoffs). This picture is unlikely to change much in the remaining two rounds, and shows three big political forces: The Muslim Brothers' FJP, the Salafists (especially the Nour Party), and the Egyptian Bloc alliance led by the Free Egyptians and the Social Democratic Party. Get this chart in PDF.
Here’s an exercise in how I think the votes in the proportional part of Egypt’s parliamentary elections will be calculated. Let’s take the beautiful district of Kasr al-Nil — the Fighting Lions! — where The Arabist is based, covering parts of Downtown Cairo and the tony island of Zamalek. This district slants liberal compared to the rest of the country. These are the results that have been published in the press:
- Freedom and Justice: 162,841 votes
- Egyptian Bloc: 73,183 votes
- al-Wafd: 59,807 votes
- al-Nour: 59,184 votes
- New Independents (Ex-NDP): 28,233 votes
Amr Moussa urging people to calm down, and as always trying to have it both ways. One of the results of the parliamentary elections, I think, will be to push skeptical secularists towards Moussa as a presidential candidate — despite his "feloolism".
The official results of the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections come out tonight, but a cursory look at initial results presented by parties and reported by the media paint a fairly clear picture: Islamists will be a majority in the next parliament, led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, and Salafists have exceeded expectations to be, perhaps, the second party in Egypt.
This news has profoundly depressed most educated, middle class Cairenes I know who had hoped that the overthow of Hosni Mubarak would be followed by a relatively liberal democracy that would be inclusive of moderate Islamists. It is particularly distressing to non-Muslims, who will now fear the Islamization of public life that has taken place in the last two decades will now be accelerated, with full backing from parliament and government leaders in the next few years.
Every week, we bring an article translated from the Arabic press, courtesy of Industry Arabic. As the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections is just about to conclude, we bring an editorial by Ahmed al-Sawy which reminds readers the elections are the beginning of a long process, not its end.
This Isn’t the Final Bout
By Ahmed al-Sawy, al-Shorouk, 29 November 2011
Whatever the results of the elections are, and whether you are satisfied with them or not, they will offer a new lesson you should try to grasp quickly. The first lesson is that when you stand at the ballot box this time, you will have a great deal more faith in the process than was previously the case, and the price for this was paid by hundreds of martyrs and thousands of victims, who faced down tyranny in your stead as if it was a “fard kifaya” – a duty which if performed by some, leaves the rest exempt. However, it is time for this exemption to come to an end, and for the confrontation to become a “fard ayn” enjoined upon every Egyptian. This time the struggle is not against the tear gas and bullets of tyrants, but a struggle at the ballot box.1
I am delighted to offer this guest post by the wonderful Sarah Carr, who blogs at Inanities.
I am a journalist, so my fate for the past two days was to drag myself between schools in Cairo looking at people, a bit like a paedophile.
We started out in Shubra, where long queues of people patiently stood in muddied streets waiting to attack the ballot box. It became clear early on who was dominating the whole affair. Outside virtually every polling station stood a small group of men with laptops providing information (voter number, which polling station they should go to) to confused voters. A useful service, but one whose legality is clouded by the fact that they information they provided was written on slips of paper bearing the insignia of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
Even in Christian-majority Shubra liberal and leftist parties were strikingly absent, leaving last-minute rallying outside polling stations to the FJP and their confreres in Islam the Nour party. The same pattern was repeated in Sayeda Zeinaba, Ain Shams and Abdeen.
This morning's WSJ makes the Salafist - Tea Party comparison:
Political analysts don't expect the Nour Party and their allies to win more than 5% to 10% of the incoming Parliament. By comparison, leaders of the Brotherhood-aligned Freedom and Justice Party have said they aim for about 35% of the incoming legislature.
But the Salafis' popularity could create a "tea-party effect" on the Brotherhood, said Shadi Hamid, an expert on Egypt at the Brooking's Institution Doha Center. Likening the Salafis to the American conservatives whose electoral gains have helped move the Republican Party to the right, Mr. Hamid said these Islamists have the potential to alter the political platform of the Brotherhood, which has been comparatively more moderate.
"It's very likely that Salafis will be the second-largest bloc in Parliament behind the Brotherhood," said Mr. Hamid. "Down the road, the Salafi competition could...drag the rest of the political spectrum rightwards."
As we await the results, what may be more important than the size of the Salafist presence in the next parliament is their results compared to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Salafists pose a problem for Egyptian society overall, but also pose a particular problem for the Brotherhood in two ways: first, they are competitors for "the Islamist vote" (whatever that is), but secondly and more importantly, they have an internal impact in a Brotherhood that is partly Salafist-oriented itself. Hence a big question is whether Salafists, who are more intellectually innovative than the Brotherhood has been in years (at least in that they produce a lot of cultural, theoretical and theological output whereas the Brothers largely stick to Hassan al-Banna) might not drag the Brotherhood their way — rather than the entire political spectrum.
If the Salafists remain under 10%, the Brothers can afford to make alliances with centrist forces knowing that the Salafists will have their back on social conservative issues. If they start to rival the Brotherhood itself, it becomes more complicated, especially if both the Brotherhood and Salafists do well, because it will freak out the rest of the political spectrum. But we should also remember that politically, the MB and the Salafists are different political animals. The MB have a political project, whereas good parts of the Salafist movement (which is diverse) might have more narrow interests related to the role of religion in public life, social mores, education and similar issues. They've shown in the past that they could be quietist about who holds power, and the Salafi movement has a strong tradition of defference to the rulers. They are not necessarily upstart radicals out to change the political system, which is how the Tea Party presents itself. They might be more like the Israeli party Shas, focusing on a narrow range of issues. It might not be getting funding for Yeshivas (or madrassas), but rather fighting the culture wars they've been fighting for decades: influencing education, state-backed religious and cultural production (al-Azhar, the Ministry of Awqaf, the Ministry of Culture, etc.), and laws having to do with women and family.
My latest column for The National, which appeared yesterday, about the events of the last week:
Pandemonium ruled Cairo's centre last week - entire streets were covered in upturned stones, large clouds of acrid tear gas hung in the air, and protesters' chants and drumbeats echoed day and night.
The fighting didn't really stop until after the army was able to make use of a truce to build a wall of concrete blocks and barbed wire, to separate protesters and police. But this has not resolved the crisis. A new spark could rekindle fighting at any time.
The events of recent days are more complicated than the dramatic tale we are told by television news. It is not just about valiant democracy activists versus ageing autocratic generals; not just about Tahrir Square's new Egypt against Hosni Mubarak's old Egypt - though that is part of the story.
It is also about the failure of the political class and about the old regime having created lasting problems that cannot be resolved by well-meaning demonstrators. And it is about a state, which employs millions, fighting to maintain itself.
"Tahrir is not Egypt," the generals argue, and they are right. As much as we may sympathise with the hundreds of thousands who descend into the streets, we cannot say they represent all of a country of 85 million. Likewise, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), with its 20 or so generals, is not Egypt either.
Read the rest here, where I predict the elections will move attention away from Tahrir and towards parliament.
That the elections received broadly positive coverage in the media will serve as a corrective to last week's negative mood about Egypt in the markets. That is a silver lining that is much needed a few days after S&P downgraded Egypt's debt and as alarm rises about the state of the reserves (about halved since January, leaving less than four months of imports), policy paralysis notably over the IMF/WB loan, terrible policymaking (borrowing locally at 11-13.5% since last June's rejection of the first IMF/WB package, which was at around 3%) and expectation of a coming devaluation of the Egyptian pound (which would help exports and tourism but contribute to inflation, the one thing brought under control in recent months.)
So the elections in Egypt are upon us, and they didn't turn out to be a catastrophe. In fact, the turnout is looking good. But should we all be celebrating? Ursula Lindsey and I argue that while Egyptians have shown they're ready for democracy, the process still leaves much to be desired. And in any case, what happens next?
As always, please do send us feedback and requests at email@example.com and do donate (or advertise) to keep these podcasts going!
Links for this episode:
- Our special elections page.
- What to make of these elections?
- Ashraf Khalil's pre-elections piece on Jadaliyya.
A transcript of this podcast is available.