Random thoughts on early Egypt voting results

A few scattershot observations on Egypt's election results:

First -- voting behavior in transitional countries, when people's sense of political identity is still inchoate, is totally all over the place. What happened in "Islamist stronghold" Alexandria? Who are the Salafis For Sabahi?

Sabahi's surge notwithstanding, the run-off as of mid-afternoon still looks like it will be between the Brothers' Mohammed Mursi and ex-Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. If Hamdeen repeats his Alex performance in Cairo this may change.

[Update: It's Mursi vs. Shafiq. Sabahi did do very well in Greater Cairo, taking first place there as well. But it's not good enough to offset Shafiq in Delta provinces like Sharqiya and Menufiya.]

However, regardless of who pulls ahead, the margins for second place look like they're going to be around one or two percentage points -- meaning that the top two names indicate more about the randomness injected into the race by the pre-vote disqualifications than they really say about voter preferences. If Omar Suleiman were still in the race, for example, Shafiq and he might be relegated to vote-splitting also-rans. If Abu Ismail were still around, maybe Mursi would be a distant third -- or, alternately, maybe Abul Futuh or even Sabahi would have slipped down a few notches.

Pre-vote polls had suggested that the Brothers had lost considerable support since their parliamentary triumph last year. For the past several weeks I've talked to a lot of ex-FJP supporters, who voted for Brothers for parliament because they thought the group really cared about the masses or "feared God" and would not be corrupt. But they have decided since then that the Brothers are politicians like everyone else. I had thought that the leitmotif of this election might be Brotherhood voters going for Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh (as a guy who speaks his mind) or for Amr Moussa (as a man with experience).

Actually, it looks like the leitmotif might be voters who went FJP for parliament but then didn't turn out at all on Wednesday and Thursday. People lost confidence in the Brothers. But the Brothers' excellent organization means that they still managed to produce enough pluralities where it counts.

[Based on final results, I see there was a big metropolis bias in my perception. Morsi's performance in Cairo was almost as bad as his performance in Alex. But he did very well in Upper Egypt.]

Some quick number crunching from jadaliyya.com's parliamentary summary and the excellent spreadsheet by @iyad_elbaghdadi and @GalalAmrG mirrored here by Moftasa. Math and errors are my own.

 Alexandria :

  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP: 754,000.
  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP plus Nour: 1,430,000
  • Presidential ballots for Morsi: 269,000
  • Parliamentary turnout:: 2.16 mn
  • Presidential turnout: 1.76 mn

Gharbiya:

  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP: 628,000.
  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP plus Nour: 1,181,000
  • Presidential ballots for Morsi: 245,000
  • Parliamentary turnout:: 1.88 mn
  • Presidential turnout: 1.32 mn

Minya:

  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP: 606k
  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP plus Nur: 971k
  • Presidential ballots for Morsi: 407k
  • Parliamentary turnout: 1.463 million
  • Presidential turnout: 944k

The upshot is that this result -- the two most polarizing candidates winning -- does not reflect any particular polarization in Egypt over religion. There is a huge middle ground who are neither particularly attracted to nor put off by Islamists. They are willing to consider a vote for an Islamist if otherwise enthused by them, or for another candidate (or not vote at all) if they don't find an Islamist they like.

But, if the vote does come down to Shafiq vs Morsi, what happens next in Egyptian politics probably will be polarizing.

A couple of other random questions -- does Shafiq's apparently strong showing in Sharqiya and other rural provinces mean a revival of the old NDP patronage net? It did actually mobilize reasonable numbers of voters in Mubarak-era parliamentary elections, but seems to have been a bit shell-shocked from the 2011 uprising. Has it got back on its feet to support Shafiq?

Also, will anyone debate again? Viewers may have thought that the free-flowing trading of accusations between Moussa and Abul Futuh was "unpresidential," preferring someone lofty. Or, as both candidates were pitching to the center, maybe they got cornered into taking one stance too many.